U.S. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV announced today that he won't seek a sixth term next year, posing a challenge for Democrats to keep the seat in Republican- leaning West Virginia.
Rockefeller, 75, spoke today in Charleston, West Virgina. His departure will give Republicans an opportunity to pick up a seat in a state where President Barack Obama received 36 percent of the vote last year.
Seven-term Republican Representative Shelley Moore Capito announced Nov. 26 that she would run in 2014 for the seat, which Rockefeller, chairman of the Commerce Committee, has held since 1985.
Republicans have lost 21 consecutive Senate races in West Virginia dating back more than half a century. The state votes Democratic in most state elections, including for governor and the state legislature, though it has shifted to Republican candidates in federal races.
"When Capito announced her intentions, that made it a serious contest, and now Rockefeller's retirement raises the stakes even higher," said Nathan Gonzales, political analyst for the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington. "It should have been one of the top races in the country, but now we have to wait and see who Democrats nominate."
The first Republican woman to represent West Virginia in Congress, Capito on Nov. 6 won 69.8 percent of the vote in her district. It encompasses about one-third of the state, including Charleston, the state capital. Capito is the daughter of three- term Republican governor Arch Alfred Moore, Jr.
Democrats and independents aligned with them control 55 seats in the 100-member Senate. The party will be defending seats next year in several states that Obama lost, including Louisiana, Montana and North Carolina.
SOURCE: Kathleen Hunter and Richard Rubin