The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 15, 2012

Kessler doesn’t see Browning’s defeat as rebuke of leadership

CHARLESTON — Majority Whip Richard Browning’s loss last week in the Democratic primary cannot be viewed as a rebuke of the Democratic leadership team, Senate President Jeffrey Kessler emphasized Monday.

Rather, his defeat at the hands of Delegate Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, was merely a victory in a region known for upsets, Kessler, D-Marshall, told reporters.

Browning lost his seat by 220 votes in the 9th District, comprised of his home county of Wyoming, and Raleigh.

“He understands that no one in this Legislature is welded to these seats,” Kessler said.

“We serve at the will and pleasure of the people. He accepted the voice of the people in his election and is moving on.”

Kessler’s comments came after the Joint Committee on Government and Finance approved 126 study resolutions for lawmakers to ponder in the interims process.

Among topics up for discussion are election eligibility — possibly a look at Texas prison inmate Keith Judd’s stunning 41 percent in the Democratic primary with President Barack Obama — mandatory immunization exemptions, redistricting and regulation of fireworks.

Browning was Kessler’s choice to serve as majority whip after the latter was picked to serve as Senate president last winter.

In the campaign, Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, on the outs with the leadership team after a failed effort to capture the presidency, appeared in television ads boosting Hall’s candidacy.

Kessler said he “truly” doesn’t view the 9th District result as a backlash against his leadership team.

“Now, I truly don’t necessarily perceive it that way,” Kessler said.

“It was a contentious race between two individuals, one sitting House member from that district, and one Senator. Raleigh County has had a history of having difficult races, perhaps some upsets.”

Kessler pointed to the defeat a few years ago of Senate Judiciary Chairman Bill Wooton, D-Raleigh, by a fellow Beckleyan, former Sen. Russ Weeks, R-Raleigh.

“It’s a difficult and unique district to run in,” Kessler said.

“It goes with the territory, even in my district.”

Kessler said he hasn’t thought about choosing a successor as majority whip, noting that Browning will be in that power role through the end of the year.

“It’s a little premature,” he said.

“There’s another election to run even now in November. A lot of that kind of stuff is still in abeyance.”

Hall faces Republican nominee Epp Cline of Oceana, who ran unopposed.

“Our leadership team is still in place, and still operating and functioning,” Kessler said.

“We’ll get through the interims process.”

Kessler praised Browning as “an effective and diligent member of the Legislature, who represented his constituents well.”

“I’m sure it was a disappointment to him,” he said.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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