Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., made it official Monday morning, announcing a bid for Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller's seat and setting up what is likely to be one of the big Senate matchups of 2014. Capito made a 10 a.m. announcement at the state capitol, and subsequently appeared on Hoppy Kercheval's West Virginia radio show Monday morning.
"I'm not afraid of a tough campaign," said Capito on Kercheval's show, saying she has a lot of energy and support. Capito also said she didn't plan on campaigning for two years straight, saying she'd drive herself and others crazy. But she explained that rather than play coy, she thought it best to make the announcement and allow the "scrambling" to begin for her congressional seat as well as signal her seriousness on the Senate race.
The popular Capito, considered the strongest GOP candidate for the seat, is a major recruiting coup for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. A poll conducted in August by R.L. Repass & Partners showed Capito beating Rockefeller 48 percent to 44 percent in a hypothetical matchup -- within the survey's margin of error.
Rockefeller has lost just one race in his long political career: The 1972 gubernatorial race, when Capito's father beat him. But the state, while still Democratic on the state level, has become solidly Republican on the presidential level.
The five-term Rockefeller, 75, stoked speculation of retirement this summer with a Senate floor speech critical of the coal industry.
In a Sunday statement, Rockefeller said that Capito had called him last week to inform him of her plans to run. "I am proud and passionate about my continued service to our state," he said, continuing that right now his focus is on the budget and fighting for West Virginia families. Saying that West Virginians are sick of the non-stop campaign, he didn't announce a reelection bid, concluding that "Politics can wait."
Capito told Kercheval she had a "very good relationship," with Rockefeller, calling him "warm" and "friendly," despite his "tense relationship" with her father.
While Rockefeller alluded in his statement to making sure "the very wealthy finally start paying their fair share again," Kercheval noted that Capito has voted against raising taxes. Capito said Congress needs to "look at everything" right now. "I'll just have to see the package when it rolls out," she said.
"For far too long, Jay Rockefeller has been more interested in endearing himself to America's liberal elite than serving the good people of West Virginia," said West Virginia GOP chair Conrad Lucas in a statement responding to Capito's announcement. "Rockefeller has stood arm-in-arm with other out-of-touch liberals by launching attacks against the coal industry and supporting the job destroying policies of President Obama."
Capito, whose birthday is today, was just elected to her seventh term in the House.