Reporting from Washington — Democrats Chris Coons and Joe Manchin III were sworn in as the newest United States senators Monday afternoon, taking their seats in Congress' lame duck session less than two weeks after they were elected.
Both men replace senators appointed to fill vacancies that occurred during the 111th Congress.
Coons, of Delaware, was sworn in by the man whose unexpired term he will complete — Vice President Joe Biden. Coons defeated tea party favorite Christine O'Donnell in a race that became a political spectacle following her upset win in the September GOP primary. Ted Kaufman served as Biden's replacement.
Manchin, who resigned as West Virginia's governor earlier Monday, is taking the seat once held for more than 51 years by the late Robert C. Byrd. Manchin had appointed Carte Goodwin, his former legal counsel, as Byrd's temporary replacement in July, before announcing his own candidacy as a permanent replacement. He defeated John Raese on Nov. 2, beating back the Republican's claims he would be a "rubber stamp" for President Obama's agenda in the new Congress.
A third senator-elect, Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, will not be sworn in until later this month. The state Board of Elections explained that the delay in seating him is due to Illinois' requirement that that certification of the vote be delayed by two weeks to account for military absentee ballots.
Kirk defeated Democrat Alexi Giannoulias for both a new six year term that will begin in January, and for the remaining weeks of the term Obama was elected to in 2004. Democrat Roland Burris was appointed by former llinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich to replace Obama.
Coons was elected to a term that concludes in January 2015. Manchin will serve until 2013, meaning he must run again in just two years for a full term of his own.
Replacing Manchin as governor is Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin, the president of the West Virginia state Senate. As occurred following Byrd's death, there is considerable debate as to just how long Tomblin can serve. The regular gubernatorial election would be held in 2012, but some say the state constitution is unclear and have called for a special election sooner.