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Democrat Crosses Party Lines to Vote for New Senate President

Ashton Marra
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mercer County Sen. Bill Cole was elected to the Senate Presidency by a vote of 19-15 Wednesday with one Democrat crossing party lines to vote with the new Republican majority.

Sen. Bob Plymale of Cabell County voted for Cole instead of former Senate President and now Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, the Democratic nominee. Plymale declined to comment on the vote.

Plymale is not the only member of the chamber who has chosen to vote against his party during a legislative body’s leadership election in the past.

Newly sworn-in Sen. Ryan Ferns of Ohio County voted for Republican Tim Armstead in 2013 for speaker over Democrat Tim Miley. At the time, Ferns was still a member of the Democratic Party. He soon after switched before registering to run for Senate.

“We are in discussions with several conservative members of the minority party who we feel would be a natural fit in the GOP,” Sen. Daniel Hall said after Cole’s election. “Those discussions have been going on since the election and are ongoing.”

Hall notably switched parties in November, the day after Election Day, and now serves as the Majority Whip.

“It takes a lot of courage to defy a party affiliation in those situations and I think there’s a recognition that the previous administration had not addressed the substantive issues that are required to move the state forward,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael said.

“With his vote, Sen. Plymale has expressed his preference for a new direction,”

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