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CHARLESTON, West Virginia (Reuters) - West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin on Tuesday appointed his former general counsel, Carte Goodwin, as interim successor to Senator Robert Byrd, who died last month at age 92 after 57 years in Congress.
Goodwin, 36, is to be sworn in on Tuesday, returning the Democrats' advantage in the Senate to 59-41, one short of the 60 needed to clear possible Republican procedural hurdles.
One of Goodwin's first votes likely will be to help Democrats pass stalled legislation to extend jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed, a measure they hope will spur economic growth before the November congressional elections.
"He will join the United States Senate as the youngest senator serving,: Manchin said in announcing the appointment. "And it's only befitting that he is replacing the most beloved, the most historic figure that the Senate has ever known and who happened to be the oldest when the good Lord took him."
Goodwin, the governor's former general counsel, will serve until November when voters are expected to pick someone to hold the seat until Byrd's term ends in January 2013.
At the request of the governor, the state legislature is meeting in special session to clear the way for a special election in November.
Manchin is expected to run for the Senate seat and, as a popular two-term governor, he would be an early favorite. U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capitol is seen as a leading potential Republican contender.
Byrd, the longest serving senator in history, died June 28. He had held the Senate seat since 1959 and before that served six years in the House of Representatives.
(Editing by Bill Trott)
Reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Donna Smith