Kessler Seeking To Keep His Title

MOUNDSVILLE – Jeff Kessler will seek to remove the “acting” tag from his role as West Virginia Senate president.

Kessler said this week that he hopes to keep the job and be named to the post on a permanent basis following the inauguration of former Senate president and now Gov.-elect Earl Ray Tomblin.

Kessler, D-Marshall, has held the position on an interim level since Tomblin became acting governor last year. In that time, Kessler said, he has proven his ability to lead the Senate and pass important pieces of legislation, including the elimination of the food tax and a Marcellus Shale regulation bill that eventually died in the House of Representatives.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Kessler said. “I oversaw one session and heard very little complaint about how things were handled. We were able to pass a majority of the governor’s agenda and worked hard to create jobs.”

West Virginians participated in a special election for U.S. Senate following the June 2010 death of Robert C. Byrd. Joe Manchin won the Senate seat and resigned as governor, leading to this year’s special election to fill the remainder of Manchin’s term in Charleston.

Tomblin, as Senate president, assumed the role of acting governor until the election could take place. Kessler was then chosen to preside over the Senate in the interim.

Kessler believes he has commitments from a sufficient number of senators to earn the job once the process begins. But that won’t occur until results from this month’s special gubernatorial election are certified by all 55 county commissions and sent to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

The information will then be presented to a joint session of the Legislature so a winner can be officially declared.

All of that must take place prior to Nov. 15 – exactly one year after Manchin’s resignation as governor. The state Supreme Court mandated that Manchin’s successor must be in office within one year after Manchin took the Senate seat.

When Tomblin’s victory over Republican challenger Bill Maloney becomes official, Tomblin will be sworn in and the process of selecting a Senate president will begin with the calling of a special session. Kessler said if selected, he will continue to pursue the goals he set when he was named interim president.

“We need more stability, and quite frankly I have proven quite capable in presiding over the Senate for the past year,” he said. “We are poised to do great things in this state, and we plan to continue finding ways to create jobs for people and take advantage of the Marcellus Shale.”