West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller will retire in 2014 at the end of his term.
Rockefeller, a Democrat, broke the news to Politico Friday morning, and made a formal announcement in West Virginia at 11 a.m. on Friday.
“I’m going to serve out my term. It was a very hard decision for me. Once it’s made, like any hard decision, it eases up. But it was a very tough decision for me,” Rockefeller said.
Rockefeller said he felt it was important to make the announcement now rather than enduring months of will-he-or-won’t-he speculation.
“I think that always in me, I want to do things — if I have a statement to make or an announcement that has at least some consequence to it — I want to do it in the way that I want to do it, at the time that I want to do it, with the words that I want to use,” he said.
“I do it now because I’d just rather clear the air and just get on with things,” he said.
Rockefeller’s retirement clears the way for other West Virginians interested in running for the seat and sets up what is likely to be a highly competitive race — both in the general and the primary. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, has already announced that she will run in 2014, an announcement to which the Club for Growth immediately announced its opposition.
The retiring Senator said his decision was not informed by fear of defeat from a potential challenger.
“Political opposition, I never worried about that,” Rockefeller insisted. “It’s not a part of this. It was easy enough not to have to worry about that.”
Republicans were optimistic in the wake of his retirement announcement.
“Senator Rockefeller’s decision not to seek reelection makes West Virginia an even stronger pickup opportunity for Republicans in 2014,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins.
Democrats, however, were also bullish on their chances to hold the seat.
“While we will greatly miss him in our caucus, I am confident we can elect an independent-minded Democrat to his seat next November,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair, Sen. Michael Bennet. “Democrats maintain nearly a two to one voter registration advantage over Republicans in West Virginia and I know there are a number of leaders there who will consider taking this next step to serve their state.”