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Capito announces run for US Senate

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U.S. Rep Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announces Nov. 26 she will run for the U.S. Senate in 2014. U.S. Rep Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announces Nov. 26 she will run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., ended years of speculation about her future plans Nov. 26 by announcing she will run in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat Jay Rockefeller.

Capito was joined by family and friends at the Capitol to make the announcement on her 59th birthday. She has represented West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District since 2000 and earned 70 percent of the vote in the 2012 general election against political unknown Howard Swint.

While some were surprised Capito would decide to run against a sitting senator and the state's senior senator, the fact she is seeking higher office has been something that has been tossed around for a while. For the past several gubernatorial elections, Capito's name has been pitched in some circles as a possible Republican candidate. And following the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Capito was asked numerous times whether she would run for that seat. This year on Election Day, Capito supporters held up signs pushing her name as a Senate candidate in 2014. 

Rockefeller has not said if he intends to run for re-election in 2014. However, both Capito and Rockefeller said now is the time to set aside "short-sighted agendas" and work together to solve the nation's problems — primarily the debt crisis.

Capito said although she will run for Senate, she will spend the next two years working in the U.S. House to help solve some of the nation's problems.

"I've always acted with one guiding principle, and that is to do what is right for the people of West Virginia — putting the people of West Virginia first," Capito said. "Over the next two years, I have no higher priority than to continue standing up for the people of the 2nd District of our state as we tackle the current financial crisis and continue to stand up to the (Environmental Protection Agency's) dangerous and unconstitutional crusade to dictate our nation's energy policy to the detriment of West Virginia."

Capito said the state's energy resources continues to be a priority for her.

Both Capito and Rockefeller acknowledged voter fatigue. West Virginia voters have experienced seven statewide elections between the May 2010 primary and November 2012 general elections, and both admitted voters are tired of the constant barrage of campaigning.

Rockefeller said beyond the big issues, "everyone I talk to in West Virginia is tired of the non-stop campaigning. West Virginians just want us to do our jobs, and for me that means focusing full-time on the serious issues at hand.  Politics can wait."

He also said being a U.S. Senator is a great honor, and he is proud and passionate about his service to the state.

"I share a deep and lasting bond with the people of West Virginia, and I believe that the Democratic values I represent are as fundamental as ever to all that we hold dear," he said. "But my total focus right now is on the national budget situation and the fight for West Virginia families — making sure the very wealthy finally start paying their fair share again, for the first time in decades, rebuilding a strong middle class, and creating real opportunity for those who are still struggling."

Capito said she made the announcement official just 20 days after the 2012 general to "avoid disruptive political speculation."

"It will also provide clarity and time for others to make decisions," Capito said. "West Virginia needs a new and diverse voice in the United States Senate, a voice that can listen and can walk with others to achieve great things. The United States Senate needs a voice that stands for common senses and fairness. I believe I can be that voice. And will ask voters for theirs support when I run for the United States Senate in 2014."

West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio criticized Capito on her announcement.

"After three straight years of campaigning in West Virginia some will start jockeying for political positions for the next election," he said in a prepared statement Nov. 26. "I believe Sen. Jay Rockefeller will continue to work for children, veterans, seniors and all working men and women and their families in West Virginia. This is another example of Jay Rockefeller putting the people putting of West Virginia first."

Rockefeller had no further comment other than to say he will continue to focus on the debt crisis. Capito called Rockefeller before making her announcement, something he says he appreciated.

If Rockefeller decides to run for another term, the race will pit two well-known, and likely well-funded, political heavyweights against each other who have their share of political history between them. Capito's father, Arch Moore, was a political rival of Rockefeller's during the 1970s. Moore defeated Rockefeller in the 1972 gubernatorial race to win his second term as governor. Eight years later, Rockefeller beat Moore in the 1980 gubernatorial race, resulting in Rockefeller's second term as governor.

Roger Horton, chairman of newly formed Coal Miners for Capito, is urging all coal miners to back Capito's bid for Senate. 

"As many of you know, I am a lifelong coal miner, a member of the UMWA, a proud Democrat and a resident of Logan County," Horton said in a statement on the groups Facebook page. "I have worked hard to protect West Virginia's coal mining jobs and I can say without hesitation that Shelley has always been there for  us -- through thick and thin.

Horton said he believes that Rockefeller has "lost his way," but thanked him for his service. 

"His recent statements on coal and coal mining show his loyalty is to Obama and not with West Virginia coal miners," Horton said. "He seems unable to comprehend that our industry is under attack by the an out-of-control EPA, choosing instead to side with the agency and Obama and costing West Virginia jobs."

Corky DeMarco, the executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association said Capito has a lot of support from state energy players. Without the backing of the energy sector, Rockefeller may have trouble recapturing his seat. 

"We're talking about tens of thousands of jobs," DeMarco said. "I'm not so sure you could really go out there and mount a campaign, a successful campaign, without considering those energy jobs in West Virginia."

DeMarco said he thinks Rockefeller is "skeptical" of the natural gas industry. Capito, on the other hand, he said, has been more proactive in defending energy issues in the state. 

"If she's got a problem she picks up the phone or has one of her people pick up the phone and call and try to get to the bottom of what's going on rather than having some judgmental thing that the industry is over and need to embrace something else," DeMarco said.