"He has and will in the future govern diligently," Plymale said.
McCabe's failure to win the Senate leadership post was the second time in a year he was beaten by Kessler. On Nov. 17, 2010, Kessler emerged as a potential temporary replacement for Tomblin following days of jockeying by more than a half-dozen senators.
Kessler won last November by beating McCabe and Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh. Green also said he would challenge Kessler this time around but is said to have thrown his support behind McCabe.
McCabe was Kessler's Senate pro tempore for the past year, a symbolically important post. But then in August, McCabe said he planned to challenge Kessler. At that point, Kessler stripped McCabe of his title.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Cory Palumbo, D-Kanawha, also backed McCabe.
If Palumbo also loses his post, Kanawha may face a significant loss of power due to McCabe's challenge.
"I am confident that my colleagues -- Senator Palumbo included -- will be in positions of significant responsibility," McCabe said.
Kessler did not shuffle the chairmanships Monday but said those appointments were pending future changes.
"I think that means I keep my spot at least through the end of the day," Palumbo said.
Kessler told reporters there may be "some changes" and he wanted to make sure his leadership team was "pulling in the same direction."
Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, predicted there would only be minor changes of leadership and did not seem to expect Palumbo would lose his seat.
Kirkendoll was one of three people selected by a Democratic Party committee to replace Tomblin. Kirkendoll was a clear favorite, however, given his stature in the coalfields.
"Art is a longtime advocate for the people of Logan County, and I believe his dedication to the greater good will easily expand to all corners of the 7th Senatorial District," Tomblin said in a statement.
"I have the utmost confidence that Art will diligently represent the people that I have so thoroughly enjoyed representing over my Senate career."
The Senate's Monday session will also go down in the books because it apparently featured the first time a senator voted by telephone. That was Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, who is on military assignment in Afghanistan. A speakerphone was set up on his desk for the vote.