- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Tuesday that he won’t run for governor, potentially helping the newly empowered state GOP sidestep a bruising primary next year.

West Virginia’s first Republican attorney general since 1933 announced he will vie for a second term in his current job. No one else has kicked off a bid for attorney general yet.

The decision could clear the Republican gubernatorial field for state Senate President Bill Cole, a car dealer from Mercer County. He’s the only well-known GOP candidate currently in the open 2016 governor’s race.

On Tuesday, Morrisey complimented Cole and said he thought would be a good governor. In turn, Cole said he looks forward to campaigning with Morrisey.

“This is a time for teamwork,” Morrisey said. “As all of you know, I have consistently said, when it comes to running for office, that it doesn’t have to be me.”

Morrisey was the second high-profile Republican to consider running for governor and bow out. Earlier this month, Republican U.S. Rep. David McKinley officially dismissed the possibility of a gubernatorial run, just as Cole started his bid.

Morrisey said he still wants to focus on legal fights challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s push to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, among other regulations.

He said he also wants to work on statewide substance abuse problems and collaborate with the Legislature on other efforts.

On the Democratic side, billionaire businessman Jim Justice and state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler are both running for governor.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s name has circulated as a potential Democratic candidate, but his job may get in the way. Goodwin’s office is prosecuting a criminal case against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, whose company ran Upper Big Branch Mine when it exploded and killed 29 men in April 2010.

However, the trial was pushed back to October, and Goodwin can’t start running without quitting his job.

The primary election is in May 2016.

Since last year’s election, Republicans have seized control of both legislative chambers for the first time in more than eight decades. Morrisey is the only elected Republican currently serving in the executive branch, though the state has historically been peppered with some Republican governors and statewide officials.

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