Senate president Cole officially enters race for governor
By Joel Ebert, Charleston Daily Mail
State Senate president Bill Cole officially entered West Virginia’s 2016 gubernatorial race on Tuesday.
Cole announced his decision on MetroNews prior to holding a press conference inside his Bluefield Nissan dealership.
“I think we’re at a unique time in our state’s history — a tipping point in which we’ll either return to the back of the pack or advance her to front rank amongst the states,” Cole said.
He then outlined the four principles of his campaign, which he said were creating a prosperous business environment, strengthening the state’s education system, improving and advancing the transportation system and combating the current drug epidemic.
Noting the limitations of what can be accomplished through legislation, Cole said, “We need a chief executive working together through the executive branch to streamline government — to be a partner to those job-creating businesses — not a roadblock.
”Citing his business background and the accomplishments made in the 2015 legislative session, Cole said he believed he could lead state government in a new direction.
In a January interview with the Daily Mail, Cole said he oversees about 500 employees between five automobile dealerships located in West Virginia and Kentucky, a manufacturing plant in Tennessee and a variety of other business interests.
“I stand before you today, ready to roll up my sleeves, work hard and seek a position in which I believe I can best serve,” he said. “Therefore today I announce that I’m running for governor of the great state of West Virginia.”
Later today he is scheduled travel to Charleston to change his paperwork to reflect the announcement. The move, which comes after months of speculation, is being made less than a year after the Republican ascended to his current position as Senate president following the 2014 election. Cole recruited several Republican candidates, who later ended up winning, prior to the election.
Following Cole’s announcement, the Republican Governors Association said, “After many years of failed Democrat policies and a lack of leadership in the governor’s office, West Virginia is in desperate need of a turnaround.
As both a businessman and experienced legislator, Senator Cole understands how to grow the economy, create jobs, and help get West Virginia moving again. The Republican Governors Association welcomes Senate President Cole to the West Virginia governor’s race.
By entering the race, Cole becomes the third such candidate and the only Republican so far seeking to replace Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who is term-limited.
Former Senate president and current Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and billionaire Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice are seeking the Democratic nomination. Cole’s move to enter the gubernatorial race leaves the seat he has held since 2012 open.
With Republicans holding a 19-17 advantage in the Senate, the race to find his replacement is expected to be a highly contested one. Robert Rocky Seay of Princeton has already entered the race and is running as a Democrat.