CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “I am a candidate for a governor of this great state,” state Senate President Bill Cole (R-Mercer, 06) announced on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” confirming his plans to seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2016.
Cole said he wants to make a difference for West Virginia by streamlining government, helping the state better partner with businesses and creating jobs from the Governor’s Office.
“I think that I’m in a unique position with my business skill as well as, I’m not a career politician but I’ve got enough years in that I’ve sort of got things figured out a little bit, so I think a combination of the two things puts me in a new unique position for the state of West Virginia, for its citizens,” he said.
Cole, 59, an auto dealer with businesses in West Virginia and Kentucky, was first elected to the state Senate in 2012 and became Senate President six months ago after Republicans took control of the Senate with a narrow 18-16 margin following the 2014 general election.
“Truly, I believe the state is in need of a new direction and, while I think we went a long way legislatively in the last session and we intend to continue that in the next session…., I think it takes executive leadership,” he said.
Supporters gathered for his campaign announcement Tuesday morning at Cole’s Nissan dealership in Bluefield. He was scheduled to travel to Charleston later in the day for a second announcement at the State Capitol.
Cole previously served in the state House of Delegates following an appointment in 2010.
If he had opted to stay out of the race, “I would have had trouble, frankly, looking in the mirror for the rest of my life because I felt like I was in a position to do something to make a difference and I didn’t so, I guess, that’s really the reason,” he told Hoppy Kercheval.
Cole was one of three Republicans who’d dominated discussions in recent months about potential GOP gubernatorial candidates.
On Monday, 1st District Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) announced his plans to seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives next year. It will be his 4th term if his re-election bid is successful.
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has not yet made a decision about a potential gubernatorial run.
According to Ryan Reynolds, spokesperson for Patrick Morrisey for West Virginia, Morrisey “continues to seriously consider his options in a run for governor in 2016. His primary concern has always been to improve the lives of the people of West Virginia and his decision will ultimately reflect that.”
Cole praised Morrisey’s work as AG. “I hope he’ll resolve to hold that office and work beside of me as we go forward,” he said.
“I respect Patrick for who he is and, if his decision is to run, then I’ll respect that and we’ll have a primary and I’ll certainly intend to win the primary because I want to get to the general (election), I want to be the next governor.”
Among Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 02), former Senate President, and Jim Justice, a businessman worth billions who has never before run for political office, have filed pre-candidacy papers to seek the party’s gubernatorial nomination next May.
The official candidate filing period is Jan. 11 – Jan. 30, 2016. Primary election day in West Virginia is May 10, 2016.