Bill Cole (politician)

This article is about the West Virginia state senator. For the American jazz musician, see Bill Cole (musician).
Bill Cole
President of the West Virginia Senate
Assumed office
January 14, 2015
Preceded by Jeff Kessler
Succeeded by Mitch Carmichael (Designate)
Member of the West Virginia Senate
from the 6th district
Assumed office
December 1, 2012
Serving with Mark Maynard
Preceded by Mark Wills
Member of the West Virginia House of Delegates
from the 24th district
In office
May 28, 2010  December 1, 2010
Preceded by John Shott
Succeeded by Marty Gearheart
Personal details
Born William Paul Cole III
(1956-05-16) May 16, 1956
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Brownie Deemer
Children 4
Alma mater Northwood University (BBA)

William Paul "Bill" Cole III (born May 16, 1956) is an American politician and a Republican member of the West Virginia Senate representing District 6 since December 1, 2012. He is President of the Senate and, as such, holds the title of Lieutenant Governor. Cole also served in the West Virginia House of Delegates from May 28, 2010 until December 1, 2010 to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Delegate John Shott.[1]

Cole was the Republican nominee for West Virginia Governor in 2016, choosing to run for the office rather than run for re-election to the state senate.[2] He lost the election to Jim Justice, and will leave the Senate on January 16, 2017. The Republican Senate caucus will choose his successor.


Cole earned his BBA from Northwood University in Midland, Michigan.


In 2012, Cole challenged Democratic Senator and former state Delegate Mark Wills, who had been appointed to the post. Cole was unopposed in the Republican Primary held on May 8, 2012. Cole received 2,757 votes in the primary.[3] He went on to win the November 6, 2012 General election with 18,598 votes and 53.3% of the vote against Senator Wills.[4]

In 2015, Cole declared his candidacy for Governor of West Virginia in the 2016 election.[5] Senator Shelley Moore Capito, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and West Virginia’s three congressman all endorsed Cole,[6] essentially clearing the path for Cole to become the Republican nominee uncontested. Cole received fundraising support from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence[7] and from former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.[8] Cole lost the general election to businessman Jim Justice.[9]


Following the Republican takeover of the State Senate, the GOP Caucus elected him President of the Senate.[10]

In 2015 Cole, who is an auto dealer in his home state and Kentucky, championed Senate Bill 453 which restricts car manufacturers from selling vehicles directly to consumers, instead requiring they sell through franchisees.[11][12][13] In December 2015, Cole wrote an official letter to the Surface Transportation Board, opposing a proposed merger of the Norfolk Southern Railway with the Canadian Pacific railway.[14] Canadian Pacific broke off negotiations in April 2016.[15]

Among the bills signed into law during Cole's tenure as Senate president include making the election of judges nonpartisan,[16] banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy,[17] legalizing concealed carry without need of a permit,[18] repealing the state's prevailing wage law,[19] and enacting a Right-to-work law.[20][21][7] The latter four bills were enacted into law over Democratic governor Earl Ray Tomblin's veto.

In May 2016 Cole endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during Trump's campaign rally at the Charleston Civic Center.[22]

Electoral history

West Virginia State Senate 6th District Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Bill Cole 18,598 53.28
Democratic Mark Wills (inc.) 16,307 46.72


  1. Manchin, Joe (May 28, 2010). "Governor Appoints Bill Cole to Fill the 24th District West Virginia House of Delegates Seat". Governor of West Virginia. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  2. "UPDATE: GOP State Senate President Cole Enters W.Va. Governor's Race". WTAP-TV. Associated Press. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2016. The prominent auto dealer made his announcement Tuesday morning at a Nissan dealership he owns near Bluefield.
  3. "Statewide Results Primary Election May 8, 2012 Official Results". Charleston, West Virginia: Secretary of State of West Virginia. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  4. "Statewide Results General Election November 6, 2012 Official Results". Charleston, West Virginia: Secretary of State of West Virginia. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  5. Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, announces run for WV governor
  6. "Senator Capito Backs Bill Cole for Governor". April 11, 2016.
  7. 1 2 Gutman, David (7 June 2016). "Indiana governor fundraises for Cole, talks right-to-work". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 6 July 2016. Speaking to about 70 donors at the Embassy Suites hotel, Pence touted his state’s right-to-work law, passed by his predecessor in 2012, and praised Cole for passing a right-to-work law this spring.
  8. Gutman, David (31 May 2016). "Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks energy, Trump in Charleston". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 6 July 2016. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry visited Charleston on Tuesday to raise money for Senate President Bill Cole’s run for governor, boost Donald Trump’s run for the presidency and to tout business-friendly policy proposals.
  9. Jim Justice beats Bill Cole in West Virginia governor's race
  10. "Armstead chosen as House speaker, Cole selected as Senate president in GOP caucus". WV MetroNews. 8 December 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2016. Later, Republican members of the state Senate, which hold an 18-16 edge, choose Mercer County Senator Bill Cole as the new Senate president in a mid-afternoon caucus.
  11. Jenkins, Jeff (March 15, 2015). "Car sales bill being debated". MetroNews. Archived from the original on November 1, 2015. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  12. Kravets, David (April 4, 2015). "West Virginia is the latest state to ban Tesla direct sales". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on November 1, 2015. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  13. Lavrinc, Damon (April 3, 2015). "Funny How Tesla Can't Sell In A State Where Lt. Governor Is A Dealer". Jalopnik. Archived from the original on November 1, 2015. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  14. "West Virgina Lt. Governor Cole Dec. 23" (PDF). Surface Transportation Board. United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  15. Marowits, Ross (10 April 2016). "Canadian Pacific Railway abandons bid to buy Norfolk Southern Corp.". Montreal Gazette. The Canadian Press. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  16. "Nonpartisan election of judges becomes law in WV - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  17. "Charleston Gazette-Mail | 20-week abortion ban to become W.Va. law; Senate overrides Tomblin veto". 2015-03-06. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  18. "West Virginia legalizes concealed carry without a permit". Fox News. 2016-03-08. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  19. "UPDATE: Lawmakers Override Tomblin Prevailing Wage Veto". WSAZ (from AP). February 12, 2016. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  20. Horowitz, Carl (2016-02-26). "West Virginia Enacts Right to Work Law over Governor's Veto - National Legal & Policy Center". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  21. "West Virginia Democrats Going After Union Vote". The Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2016. Senate President Bill Cole, the lead Republican running in an open governor’s race, spearheaded the right-to-work push.
  22. Marks, Rusty (5 May 2016). "Sanders, Trump WV rallies like night and day". State Journal. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 'You're not going to find a political candidate where you agree with 100 percent of what they say,' Cole said. But he said he thinks Trump's 'heart is in the right place' in his desire to help the country and save coal and other industrial jobs.
Political offices
Preceded by
Jeff Kessler
President of the West Virginia Senate
Succeeded by
Mitch Carmichael
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Maloney
Republican nominee for Governor of West Virginia
Most recent
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