With Sen. Jay Rockefeller not seeking reelection, the pathway to Congress’ upper chamber becomes a bit clearer for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.
Capito, a seven-term congresswoman, previously announced her intentions to run for Senate in 2014. That’s when Rockefeller’s term expires.
On Monday’s MetroNews Talkline, Capito said she had spoken with Rockefeller about his future plans, but he never gave any indication of retirement.
“I called him and let him know what my intentions were,” Capito said. “And he told me at that time, ‘I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings, but whatever your intentions are will have no bearing on my decision.’ And that was as close as we got to what his decision might be.”
Rockefeller held a press conference Friday in Charleston where he said he would not seek a sixth term in the Senate. The senator said he wanted to spend more time with his children and grandchildren after more than five decades of public service.
The announcement means Capito can avoid a battle with an icon of the U.S. Senate with household name recognition. It’s something Capito acknowledged during her Talkline appearance.
“I will admit I had a big smile on my face on Friday,” Capito said. “Not so much hearing he leaving for that reason. But certainly looking at 2014, he’s a longtime senator, and that’s difficult.”
But before Capito can begin to think about her Democrat opposition, she will first have to win over Republicans who have expressed concerns.
Among them is Rep. David McKinley, who represents West Virginia’s First Congressional District.
McKinley, also appearing on Talkline last week, did not rule out his own possible run at Rockefeller’s seat. At the time, McKinley said he wanted to make sure Capito advocated strong fiscally conservative positions.
“I have told them I am… watching to see what happens with Shelley, how well she continues to maintain a fiscal policy that is good for this country,” he said.
Capito defended her record Monday, pointing out she voted in favor of the Paul Ryan budget and against the fiscal cliff deal.
“We don’t a handle on our spending and habits in Washington — our overspending, our debt and deficit — that’s why I thought the Ryan Budget was at least a pathway to move us forward,” Capito said.
She added that McKinley has known about her desire to run for Senate for two years. Capito said she’s not worried about losing McKinley’s support in the campaign.
“Politics kind of makes strange statements every now and then I would say,” Capito said. “I would expect, when push comes to shove, that Congressman McKinley will be in my corner.”
For now, the congresswoman says she’s focused on her role in the House of Representatives. No Democrats have publicly announced they are running for Rockefeller’s seat.