As a result, Rockefeller is the first Democrat up for re-election next year to announce his retirement. He will serve out his term.
The 75-year-old former two-term governor and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee told the Associated Press that the time has come for him to retire. The idea of retirement was something the politician has been wrestling with for a considerable period, but he wasn’t able to make up his mind until recently.
“[It’s time to] bring more balance to my life after a career that has been so obsessively dominated by politics and public policy and campaigns,” Rockefeller told the AP. “I’ve gotten way out of whack in terms of the time I should spend with my wife and my children and my grandchildren.”
With the early announcement, Democrats will have adequate time to find a suitable candidate for the seat. That said, Rockefeller's retirement announcement will undoubtedly kick off a strong fight for the seat that has been held by Democrats since 1958.
Moreover, whether a Democrat retains the seat in the next election isn’t certain, as Rockefeller’s popularity in the culturally conservative state was dimming and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican whose father was a governor, has said she intends to make a Senate run in 2014.
Democrats currently hold a 55 to 45 advantage in the Senate. In next year’s election, the party will be defending 20 seats.
Rockefeller hails from one of the richest families in the world and focused on anti-poverty programs in West Virginia.