CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller will not seek a sixth term representing West Virginia.
The five-term Democrat made it official in an announcement late Friday morning in Charleston.
“As I approach 50 years of public service in West Virginia, I’ve decided that 2014 will be the right moment for me to find new ways to fight for the causes I believe in and to spend more time with my incredible family," the senator said. "Serving West Virginia in the U.S. Senate is an abiding honor and privilege, and Sharon and I are so full of gratitude to our state and to the countless friends and supporters who have made my public service possible,” Rockefeller said. “For the next two years in the Senate, and well beyond, I will continue working tirelessly on behalf of all West Virginians. Championing those most in need has been my life’s calling, and I will never stop fighting to make a difference for the people who mean so much to me.”
The 75-year-old Rockefeller has recently sparred with the state's mining industry over the future of coal, and he has supported President Barack Obama, who is deeply unpopular in West Virginia.
Rockefeller tells The Associated Press that public service has dominated his life for a half-century. He said he plans to retire in 2014 to devote more time to his family and vowed to remain a West Virginian.
Friday's announcement is sure to set off a scramble for the seat. Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito has already said she will seek it in 2014.
Sen. Joe Manchin, who will become the state's senior senator upon Rockefeller's retirement in 2015, praised his service to the state and to the nation.
“When I first arrived in Washington two and a half years ago, I couldn’t have received a warmer welcome from Jay and his staff, and I am so personally grateful for all their help," Manchin said in a statement released shortly after Rockefeller's announcement. "More importantly, in all his decades of public service, Jay has followed one guiding principle: to improve the lives of West Virginians. Jay’s heart has always been true, and we share the goal of serving the beautiful people of the state we love today and into the future.”
Rockefeller arrived in the state as an anti-poverty worker in 1964. His subsequent political career has also included two terms as governor.