CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller announced Friday he will not seek a sixth term, throwing the Democrat's long-held seat in jeopardy in 2014.
Rockefeller was a state legislator, secretary of state and governor before he became a U.S. senator. He said the peak moment of his career may have been threatening to keep the Senate in session over Christmas break if they didn't pass the 1992 Coal Act. He also co-sponsored legislation creating the state-level Children's Health Insurance Program, and helped persuade the Veterans Affairs Department to revisit disability claims arising from what has become known as "Gulf War Illness."
Here is reaction to Rockefeller's retirement:
— "Jay Rockefeller first arrived in West Virginia as a young volunteer, eager to improve the lives of working families. And for more than four decades, he has continued to fight tirelessly on their behalf," President Barack Obama said. "Michelle and I join the people of West Virginia in thanking Senator Rockefeller for a lifetime of service, and I look forward to continuing to work with him over the next two years."
— "He told us, 'My name is Rockefeller, but that will not pay our bills,'" U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., recalled Rockefeller saying at his first gubernatorial inauguration. "He gave us more than his family name. He pledged his heart, mind and strength to us that day. For almost half a century, Sen. Rockefeller's service to his state and its families has never wavered from that commitment."
— "Sen. Rockefeller has been one of the best friends our union has ever had," United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts said. "In every struggle — whether promoting mine safety, ensuring continued support for our retirees' health care and pensions through the Coal Act or fighting for workplace justice, he has been a constant and untiring friend to coal miners and all working people."
— "Clearly West Virginia will reflect back on it and be proud of his service here and all of the positions that he's held," said West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney, whose group has been critical of Rockefeller. "There's been a wide disparity of opinion about some of the issues, but this isn't a time to reflect on those. I think the time is (for) everybody be positive and complimentary as we go forward and just remember all the good things that he has done."
— "The nation and West Virginia are better places today thanks to Jay's distinguished and selfless public service," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said. "Jay was a tireless and successful advocate for our nation's children, and he was a leader in expanding their access to health care. Millions of families today are better off because of Jay's tireless work on programs such as the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid."
— "Senator Rockefeller has served our state with distinction for over 40 years. Jay has always been a true gentlemen and hardworking statesmen while working hard on the challenges that face our state and country," said Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who had planned to run against Rockefeller in 2014. "While we disagree on many policy issues, the No. 1 concern for both of us has always been the welfare of West Virginians. I consider him a personal friend and thank him for his service."
— "Sen. Rockefeller's decision not to seek re-election makes West Virginia an even stronger pickup opportunity for Republicans in 2014," said National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins. "Voters next year will have a clear choice between a Democrat who will be a loyal vote for President Obama and Harry Reid as they try to kill West Virginia's coal industry and bankrupt our country with reckless government spending, versus a Republican who will serve as an effective check-and-balance on their liberal agenda and work to get our country's economy back on track."
— "For more than a generation, Senator Rockefeller has been a dedicated public servant, a brilliant legislator, and a loyal colleague in the U.S. Senate," said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "While we will greatly miss him in our caucus, I am confident we can elect an independent-minded Democrat to his seat."
— "To stop and think that in 2014, Jay has given 50 years of public service, and to think about an individual that has worked that many years of serving the state of West Virginia, it's my only hope that whoever would serve as United States senator as he retires in that position would have the same drive, and commitment and desire to do good things for people in West Virginia," said state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio.
— "When I first arrived in Washington two and a half years ago, I couldn't have received a warmer welcome from Jay and his staff, and I am so personally grateful for all their help," U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a fellow West Virginia Democrat, said. "More importantly, in all his decades of public service, Jay has followed one guiding principle: to improve the lives of West Virginians. Jay's heart has always been true, and we share the goal of serving the beautiful people of the state we love today and into the future."
— "With the announcement that U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller will not seek another term in office, I believe the State of West Virginia is losing one of its most valued and influential leaders of our generation," West Virginia State Treasurer John D. Perdue, a Democrat, said.