CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — On the heels of winning a seventh term, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito vowed Monday to run in 2014 for the seat now held by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat and West Virginia's senior senator.
Joined on her 59th birthday by several dozen supporters and family members, with several holding printed campaign signs, Capito announced her plans in the state Capitol rotunda. Among other issues, the 2nd District Republican touted the state's coal industry while decrying federal energy and environmental policies. She also cited GOP inroads gained in the general election three weeks ago.
"We are experiencing changing leadership in our state resulting in a greater political balance between parties," Capito said, adding that "West Virginia needs a new and diverse voice in the U.S. Senate."
Rockefeller said Capito told him of her plans last week. The 75-year-old did not say whether he would seek a sixth term in 2014, saying in a statement that he was focused on the budget situation and "making sure the very wealthy finally start paying their fair share again, for the first time in decades, rebuilding a strong middle class, and creating real opportunity for those who are still struggling."
Rockefeller and state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio also each cited how West Virginians have gone through seven elections in less than three years. That lengthy political season included a special U.S. Senate primary following the 2010 death of Robert C. Byrd. Then-Gov. Joe Manchin won that seat, leading to special primary and general gubernatorial elections last year.
"Everyone I talk to in West Virginia is tired of the non-stop campaigning," Rockefeller said.
Capito agreed, telling supporters her announcement aimed to "avoid disruptive political speculation."
"It will also hopefully provide clarity and time for others to make decisions," she said.
West Virginia Republican Chairman Conrad Lucas heralded Capito's announcement in a statement blasting Rockefeller's tenure. But Capito took immediate fire Monday from Chris Chocola, president of the anti-tax Club for Growth and a former House Republican colleague.
Chocola targeted Capito for dozens of votes, including those for the No Child Left Behind education law, congressional earmarks, expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program and government responses to the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.
"The problem is that Congresswoman Capito's record looks a whole lot like the establishment candidates who lost this year," Chocola said in a statement. "Congresswoman Capito has a long record of support of bailouts, pork, and bigger government."
Capito campaign spokesman Kent Gates said Capito has a proven relationship with voters and referred to her state Capitol comments, which included her call to "set aside short term agendas to restore fiscal discipline in Washington."
Capito attracted about 70 percent of her district's vote when she defeated a low-funded Democratic opponent, Howard Swint, on Nov. 6. Capito would be leaving a U.S. House controlled by her party and where she has built seniority. Among her assignments, Capito chairs a House Financial Services subcommittee that oversees banks and consumer credit.
Those on hand for Capito's announcement included lobbyists representing the state Chamber of Commerce, Coal Association, auto and truck dealers, and gas station owners. With the Legislature holding interim study meetings, the crowd included several GOP lawmakers.
Capito was in the House of Delegates when she first ran for Congress in 2000. Her father, Arch Moore, had been Rockefeller's chief political rival several decades ago. Moore defeated Rockefeller in the 1972 race for governor, but then lost to him in a 1980 rematch.
Rockefeller narrowly won election to the Senate in 1984, while Moore served a third term as governor but then pleaded guilty to five corruption-related felonies. After recent health struggles, he and former first lady Shelley Moore did not attend the announcement. Standing by Capito was her husband, a finance executive, along with their grown children and their families.