Rockefeller came under fire in his home state last election season for remarks in opposition to some coal industry strategies. "This is obviously a huge blow for any efforts to have more reasoned and forward-thinking discussion of coal-mining issues in West Virginia," writes Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette.
During his announcement, Rockefeller, 75, thanked "all West Virginians, who took me in, transformed me and supported me." He continued: "There's a tremendous amount of greatness here, but also of hurt, and I have sought to ease life and the burdens of people who are forgotten." West Virginia has voted increasingly Republican at the presidential level, notes the Gazette's Paul Nyden, and political analysts predicted a close race between Rockefeller and Capito.
Rockefeller first came to West Virginia as a member of the old Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) in 1964. He was elected to the state legislature two years later, and secretary of state two years after that. He lost a bid for governor in 1972, then served four years as president of West Virginia Wesleyan College before successfully running for governor. He served in that post for eight years, went to the Senate, and was never seriously challenged in any of his campaigns. (Read more)
UPDATE, Jan. 12: Manuel Roig-Franza of The Washington Post writes about Rockefeller as the last member of a political dynasty, critic of coal and "the author of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP, which provided coverage to 8 million children."