CHARLESTON, W.Va. - For 25 years, West Virginia had the same two Democratic U.S. senators, Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, who put a glass ceiling on other politicians' rise to power.
Byrd died in 2010 and Rockefeller, 75, announced Friday he would not seek a sixth term in 2014.
Now, as they did when Byrd died, Democrats and Republicans across the state are eyeing the political ladder to Washington.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announced in late November she would run for Senate with or without Rockefeller on the ballot.
With Rockefeller out, Democrats are floating their names, working the phones and figuring out what it will take to challenge the formidable Capito.
"Everybody I know thinks Shelley Capito is well positioned and well liked, and she is working hard and she has an infrastructure in place and she is clearly the frontrunner," said state Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts.
In the five most recent Senate races in West Virginia, the winner has spent an average of $5.1 million, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
(Though perhaps nothing matches the $10 million Rockefeller pulled from his own pocket to beat Republican John Raese in 1984 to win his first Senate term.)
Capito can raise money. On the day she announced she would run for Senate, her campaign raised more $100,000, The Washington Post reported. The leaders of the state Coal Association and Chamber attended her Senate run announcement, a sign of where they leaned.
There may also be considerable spending from outside groups. When Raese faced off against then-Gov. Joe Manchin to fill Byrd's unexpired term in 2010, outside groups spent nearly $11 million to try to swing the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
A major question now is, What Democrat can attract this kind of money against Capito?
No Democrats have declared their intentions firmly, but numerous names were mentioned and traditional Democratic Party factions were beginning their hunt for a contender.
There is also some effort to make sure the new senator is a reliable vote on traditional Democratic issues. Rockefeller's colleague, Manchin, D-W.Va., is perhaps not that reliable vote.
In 2009-2010, for instance, Rockefeller fought hard for the health care reform law, which many Democrats strongly supported. Manchin, then governor, danced around the issue and, during his Senate run, called for its partial repeal.
"I know it's not particularly popular in West Virginia, but, frankly that's OK," Rockefeller said during his announcement Friday at the state Culture Center in Charleston.
Elaine Harris, an international representative for the Communications Workers of America, was one of few in the West Virginia political world to get advanced notice Thursday night that Rockefeller would retire.
She said the senator did not waver on issues important to unions during his career.
"Without hesitation, he's been there fighting the tough fights and when he's up for the right thing, he will fight," Harris said.
Possible candidates to replace Rockefeller include current Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. A spokesman said the congressman is considering a Senate run.
"Jay's decision has made it incumbent upon me to recalibrate all my decisions in terms of what is in the best interests of the people of West Virginia," Rahall said in a brief statement.