CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who came to West Virginia as a young man from one of the world's richest families to work on antipoverty programs and remained in the state to build a political legacy, announced Friday he will not seek a sixth term.
The 75-year-old Democrat's decision, coming at a time when his popularity in a conservative state had been waning for sparring with the powerful mining industry and supporting President Barack Obama, told The Associated Press ahead of his formal announcement that it was time to retire.
After about three decades in elective office, it was time to "bring more balance to my life after a career that has been so obsessively dominated by politics and public policy and campaigns," he said. "I've gotten way out of whack in terms of the time I should spend with my wife and my children and my grandchildren."
Rockefeller's decision will set off a scramble for a seat held by Democrats since 1958. Within weeks of November's elections, Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito vowed to run for the Senate seat in 2014, even if it meant going up against Rockefeller and his storied name. Other Republicans also have been eyeing the seat in recent weeks.
Rockefeller said Capito's announcement did not influence his decision. Willing to devote millions of his personal wealth toward his campaigns - including several against Capito's father, ex-Gov. Arch Moore - the senator said he believes he would have prevailed over the seven-term congresswoman.
In a state that is the second-leading producer of coal, Rockefeller's positions rankled some who are protective of an industry that brings more than 65,000 jobs to one of the nation's poorest states. He accuses mining supporters of a combative closed-mindedness in the face of inexpensive natural gas, concerns over climate change and calls for cleaner ways to burn coal. Mining advocates accuse Rockefeller of abandoning them as Obama has ramped up scrutiny of Appalachian mountaintop-removal mining operations.