Kanawha County Sen. Erik Wells
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Senator Bill Cole reiterated Thursday on MetroNews Talkine there would be no person named “No Candidate Filed” on the Republican side of the ballot in next year’s state Senate races.
Cole, R-Mercer, has been busy recruiting candidates for the past several months. He’s interested in 14 races. He said if GOP candidates can win 9 of 14 it can take control of the Senate.
“We got 30 days to go and a few seats to fill but we intend to do it,” Cole said. The filing period begins in January.
Cole recently helped recruit retired insurance agent Ed Gaunch to run for a Kanawha County seat along with Lewisburg small business owner Duane Zobrist to run in the 10th Senatorial District race. Cole also said Thursday Mattress Warehouse founder and owner Kim Knopf was weighing her options about running for a state or congressional seat.
“What a phenomenal candidate,” Cole said about Knopf. “A self-made, incredibly successful businesswoman. I’m excited she’s considering it.”
Senator Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, who could be challenged by Gaunch next year, said Thursday one must give credit to Sen. Cole for his ambitions. Wells said those ambitions are clear.
“Sen. Cole’s whole agenda here is that he wants to flip the Senate, become Senate president, and set himself up for 2016 to run for governor,” Wells said.
The senator said Cole’s efforts may remind West Virginia voters of someone else, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.
“When you have one person who is trying to recruit everybody it’s almost like a throwback to the Don Blankenship days. In fact, we’re going to go through a sequel here,” Sen. Wells predicted.
Wells added he believes having a challenger makes him a better candidate. Wells called Gaunch after he announced his candidacy earlier this month.
Sen. Cole said his efforts are not about left and right but about getting the right person in office who can help the state.
“We’re virtually last in so many of those measurements that we need to be first in. Why not give a new guy a chance? Our founding fathers were pretty bright when they came up with a two party system a few years ago. We just haven’t had a two party system in West Virginia since the 1930s,” Senator Cole said.
Three of the Republican senate candidates next year have switched political parties from Democrat to Republican.
“There’s a wave a sentiment that their party left them,” Cole said. “And the Republican Party is better representing what they feel the future of West Virginia needs.”
Cole said he’s also working on candidates for possible runs in Raleigh and Monongalia counties.