West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-2nd CD) officially announced that she will challenge Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) next year, becoming the first person of the new election cycle to declare intentions for another office. Though speculation has been heavy that the senator won’t seek a sixth term in 2014, Rockefeller in response to his new challenger, says he plans to run even while disparaging the constancy of the campaign season.
The Republicans scored big with this recruit. Now needing to gain six Democratic seats to achieve bare minimum control, the West Virginia campaign may be behind only North Carolina as a GOP conversion opportunity. Should Sen. Rockefeller reverse course and retire, then Capito would become a prohibitive favorite in an open seat situation.
The congresswoman was originally elected in 2000, and has consistently strengthened her political base with each re-election campaign. This year, she racked up a 70-30 percent win after notching 68 percent of the vote in 2010. Prior to these two elections, her victory percentages had been in the 50s. In a three-congressional district state, Ms. Capito represents one-third of the state’s voters and West Virginia’s largest urban area of Charleston.