CHARLESTON, W.Va. - U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., plans to run for U.S. Senate in 2014, her campaign said Sunday.
Capito, who was just elected to a seventh term representing West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, announced her decision today at the state Capitol.
"She thinks it's critical that the state has a U.S. senator that is resolute and steadfast to stand up for the coal industry and energy jobs for West Virginia," Capito campaign adviser Kent Gates said Sunday.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has held that Senate seat since the 1984 election. Rockefeller has not made his intentions in 2014 explicit and said he is focusing on budget issues in Washington.
"Politics can wait," Rockefeller said Sunday through a spokesman.
Capito, a former member of the state House of Delegates, was first elected to Congress in 2000.
Capito's announcement came before she is sworn in to her next two-year U.S. House term. Gates said the timing was meant to clear the air and end speculation about Capito's future.
"She feels it is important to get back to work on the fiscal cliff and fighting to protect West Virginia's interests," Gates said, referring to upcoming battles on Capitol Hill. "But she also thinks it is important that people know what her intentions are so they can plan accordingly, and it gets away from the political speculation that has surrounded her for literally the past two and a half years."
During Capito's congressional career, she has turned down pleas from Republicans to run for another office.
In summer 2010, Capito said she would not run for the Senate seat left vacant by Robert Byrd. The decision to sit out the race helped clear the way for then-Gov. Joe Manchin to join the Senate in that year's special election for the remainder of Byrd's term.
Manchin, D-W.Va., was just elected to a full six-year Senate term.
If there's a Rockefeller-Capito match-up, it could very well represent a key moment in West Virginia political history and sharpen the debate over the future of the state's coal industry.
While Capito is a prominent advocate of the industry, Rockefeller, like Byrd before him, may be using the later years of his career to try to get West Virginians to think beyond coal.
This summer, Rockefeller gave a stern and stunning speech on the Senate floor about the industry. He accused coal operators of scare tactics and told them to stop shrugging off climate change and pollution-related health problems.
Gates said Capito has a good relationship with Rockefeller, but "there's obviously different and increasingly different philosophies - in her mind."
Gates said Capito's decision to run was to offer leadership on issues ranging from energy to taxes and spending; trying to bring polite consensus building to the Senate; and providing political and gender diversity.