UPDATE 11/15/11 @ 12:30 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP & WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Senate has its first new president in 17 years.
Sen. Jeff Kessler, a Marshall County Democrat, won election as the body's chief Monday. The 28-5 vote followed party lines.
"We continued to make government work every single day, regardless of the person holding the gavel, or the person sitting behind the desk," Kessler said after the vote.
Republicans nominated Sen. Mike Hall of Putnam County.
Kessler succeeds Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who resigned Sunday from the Senate. Tomblin had been acting as governor since last November under the state constitution's vacancy process. He was the longest-serving Senate president in state history.
Kessler served as acting president during Tomblin's absence. A lawyer, Kessler was previously chair of the Judiciary Committee. He turns 56 on Wednesday.
About two months ago, Sen. Brooks McCabe (D-Kanawha) made it known he was interested in the Senate President position.
During a closed-door meeting Monday afternoon, McCabe lost the vote among Democrats 17-11 against Kessler.
McCabe criticized how the Senate was being run, saying all viewpoints were not being considered.
"In many ways, time is short. So, we really have to focus on working efficiently and effectively as possible," says McCabe.
Those voting Monday included newly appointed Sen. Art Kirkendoll. Tomblin named the 60-year-old Democrat earlier Monday to his vacated seat representing Logan County. Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, voted by phone while deployed to Afghanistan as a Naval reserve officer.
Tomblin appointed the 60-year-old on Monday.
Kirkendoll takes the seat Tomblin vacated Sunday before taking
office as the winner of last month's special gubernatorial
Kirkendoll was among three county residents recommended by a Democratic committee Monday to fill the vacancy. Besides decades on the county commission, he was an economic development official under former Gov. Bob Wise.
Tomblin had held the Senate seat since 1980. Tomblin was also
the Senate's president, so he was acting as governor until Sunday under the state's vacancy process. Tomblin also resigned that leadership post.
The Senate must now elect a new president, and could do so Monday.
Marshall County Democrat Jeff Kessler emerged from a closed-door party meeting Monday as the likely choice.
Kessler was elected acting president in January during Tomblin's absence. He turns 56 on Wednesday.
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