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Jan 11, 2013 Comments Off Infidel

Excerpted from The Hill: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) announced Friday that he will not run for reelection in 2014, giving Republicans a prime pickup opportunity in a state that’s grown increasingly red in recent years.

“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,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

Republicans already have their top recruit in place for the race. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) threw her hat in the ring late last year, and is considered the front-runner for the seat, should she survive what could be a tough GOP primary.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins said West Virginia is an “even stronger pickup opportunity” now that Rockefeller has stepped aside.

“Voters next year will have a clear choice between a Democrat who will be a loyal vote for President Obama and Harry Reid as they try to kill West Virginia’s coal industry and bankrupt our country with reckless government spending, versus a Republican who will serve as an effective check-and-balance on their liberal agenda and work to get our country’s economy back on track,” he said.

The chairman of the state’s Republican Party, Conrad Lucas, noted that Mitt Romney took nearly two-thirds of the state’s presidential vote last year.

“West Virginia Democrats have continued to align themselves with President Obama and his policies, which are toxic in this state,” Lucas told The Hill.

“Anyone who the Democrat Party puts up for the Senate seat in 2014 is going to have to explain their views and how they differ from Obama, and I don’t see how they’ll be able to do that.”

But Democrats have some hope that the seat can remain in their column.

Despite the increasingly red tint of West Virginia, the state hasn’t elected a Republican senator since 1956. Rockefeller’s decision to retire now, at the very start of the election cycle, gives Democrats plenty of time to mount a defense.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who is tasked with recruiting Senate candidates as chairman of the chamber’s campaign committee, acknowledged the challenge that Democrats face in West Virginia. He said the party would look for an “independent-minded Democrat” to run for the seat.

“For more than a generation, Senator Rockefeller has been a dedicated public servant, a brilliant legislator, and a loyal colleague in the U.S. Senate. While we will greatly miss him in our caucus, I am confident we can elect an independent-minded Democrat to his seat next November.

“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,” Bennet said.

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