Republican state Senate President Bill Cole has announced that he will run for West Virginia governor in 2016.
The prominent auto dealer made his announcement Tuesday morning at a Nissan dealership he owns near Bluefield. The Mercer County lawmaker then headed to Charleston for additional events at the Capitol.
Cole is the first Republican front-runner to join the race. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is also considering a bid. Congressman David McKinley ruled out a run Monday.
On the Democratic side, billionaire businessman Jim Justice has kicked off a campaign. State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler is also officially in the race.
Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin cannot run again because he is reaching a limit of two consecutive terms.
Cole finished his first legislative session as Senate president in March.