- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The 2016 Republican field for West Virginia governor became much clearer Monday, as state Senate President Bill Cole all but jumped in and U.S. Rep. David McKinley said he won’t vie for the state’s top executive gig.

Cole started Monday’s action with an announcement of an announcement.

Cole said he’ll make his official intentions known Tuesday. The prominent auto dealer has events planned at his Nissan dealership near Bluefield and at the Capitol in Charleston.

With a “Bill Cole for Governor” logo on his website Monday, the Mercer County Republican left little doubt about what he would announce.

“It is time for new leadership that will help put our state on a path to economic growth and provide West Virginians with the job opportunities they deserve,” Cole’s website says.

On Monday afternoon, McKinley followed by answering the lingering “will-he-run” question.

He announced his re-election bid for a fourth U.S. House term, adding that he’d be more useful in Washington fighting the Obama administration’s environmental policies that affect the coal industry.

McKinley represents northern West Virginia in the 1st Congressional District.

“There comes a time that you have to put aside what you want to do for yourself,” McKinley said during a call with reporters Monday. “But, what’s right for the country? What’s right for our state? Where can we be most effective?”

For Republicans, the last big question mark is Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. The first-term statewide official didn’t back down Monday, as his campaign repeated that he’s seriously considering a gubernatorial run.

“(Morrisey’s) primary concern has always been to improve the lives of the people of West Virginia, and his decision will ultimately reflect that,” said Ryan Reynolds, Morrisey campaign spokesman.

On the Democratic side, billionaire businessman Jim Justice has already kicked off a campaign. State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler also is officially in the race.

Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin cannot run again because he is reaching a limit of two consecutive terms.

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