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West Virginia GOP Senate president, doctor who opposed drawing back vaccine laws ousted in election

CHARLESTON, W.Va (AP) — West Virginia voters ousted the Republican state Senate president on Tuesday, as well as a doctor who drew fire for breaking with his party over school vaccination policy.

They were among at least eight incumbent GOP legislators who lost in the state’s primary elections.

In the state’s eastern panhandle, U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret veteran Tom Willis defeated Republican Senate President Craig Blair, who has helmed the chamber since 2021. And State Health and Human Resources Chair Sen. Mike Maroney was defeated by Chris Rose, a utility company electrician and former coal miner.

Maroney’s loss came after he publicly advocated against a bill pushed by the Republican caucus that would have allowed some students who don’t attend traditional public institutions or participate in group extracurriculars like sports to be exempt from vaccinations typically required for children starting day care or school.

West Virginia is only one of a handful of states in the U.S. that offers only medical exemptions to vaccine requirements. Maroney, a radiologist from Marshall County, called the bill “an embarrassment” on the Senate floor and said he believed lawmakers were harming the state.

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