By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
William Paul “Bill” Cole III of Bluefield appears to have unseated incumbent Democratic state senator Mark Wills, D-Mercer, in their race to represent State Senate District 6 on Tuesday night, according to unofficial vote totals.
Cole, a 56-year-old Bluefield resident, collected 53.4 percent of the vote with all 128 precincts around the district reporting. Official canvasses will verify the result.
In their home county of Mercer, out of 20,954 votes cast, Cole received 57 percent of the ballots. The portion of Mingo County in the district favored Wills 60.3 percent to 39.7.
Cole led by 100 votes in the nine District 6 precincts in Wayne County. In McDowell County, the last county to report, Cole led by 405 votes out of 5,269 cast.
Cole said on Tuesday night, “First of all, I’m honored, I’m humbled. I’m feeling all those emotions. I worked hard all up and down the 6th District, met a lot of friends, made a lot of new friends. I’m old enough and smart enough to know I didn’t do this by myself. ... I had a great group of people working with me.”
“I’m looking ahead with great anticipation, but I’m rolling my sleeve up and getting ready to work, to make southern West Virginia a better place to live.”
A Princeton attorney and former member of the House of Delegates, Wills, 56, won a special election two years ago to claim a State Senate seat. He is currently vice chair of the senate Judiciary Committee and the Banking and Insurance Committee.
Wills said by telephone, “I wish Bill Cole the best and I congratulated him on his victory. I will do anything I can to help any transition and I hope he does well for the citizens of Mercer County — and the whole 6th District.”
But Wills cautioned that Democrats control most of the state legislature and the election of a Republican “will hurt Mercer County.”
Cole, a fifth-generation Mercer County businessman, served in the House of Delegates in 2010 as an appointee to fill a vacancy, but was not subsequently elected.
Cole said, “I feel the momentum (from) a lot of people crossing party lines and fed up with the one-party hold on the state for 80 years,” Cole said.
He said about his majority in McDowell County, “I have so many people in McDowell County that were working hard for me. ... I talked to a number of people who said, ‘I never voted for a Republican in my life,’ and they were voting for two this time, myself and Mitt Romney.”
Asked about the race with Wills, Cole said, “Mark’s a great guy. He ran a clean campaign and I did as well. He came and congratulated me, and I told him how much I appreciated that we both ran a clean campaign. ... I’m proud to know him.”
The 6th District was re-drawn last year by the state legislature to include all of Mercer County, which became the only county completely within the new district.
All but three of McDowell County’s 43 voting precincts are in District 6. The new district wraps around the southwestern edge of the state, extending northward almost to the Ohio River. It includes 28 of 39 precincts in Mingo, and a sliver of western Wayne County.
— Contact Tom Bone at