Jay Rockefeller announced that he will not seek another term. He was going to have a tough time winning it, perhaps; Republicans had already recruited a tough challenger, Shelley Moore Capito. And of course West Virginia has been increasingly Republican lately, although more so in presidential voting than in statewide contests. Democrats do have some viable options — and there’s no guarantee that Republicans won’t wind up with a Tea Party candidate after all. As Sean Trende suggests, any restraint that conservatives might have had about acting strategically in a primary may disappear completely now that it will be an open seat.

I’ve always thought of Rockefeller as an excellent Senator; very much someone who worked seriously through his committee assignments, although as far as I know there’s no real signature legislative achievement. He flirted pretty seriously with a run for the presidency for a while, but never jumped all the way in.

As far as my obsessions…Rockefeller was born in 1937, so this first retirement going into the 2014 cycle is a good start at keeping the Senate from growing older in 2015 — although Capito would be 62 by January 2015, keeping with the alarming (in my view) trend of too many new Senators over 60.

Shelley Moore Capito is the daughter of former West Virginia Governor Arch Moore, so if she does succeed Rockefeller it would be a missed chance for one fewer legacy Senator. Oh well; she’s surely at least less of a dynastic politician than Rockefeller. Hey, I didn’t realize that Rockefeller was married to (Senator) Charles Percy’s daughter (great picture of them at his official site).

For what it’s worth, this continues a lousy start for the Democrats and a good one for the GOP in the 2014 cycle. But it’s a bit early to draw any conclusions from it…let’s just say that I’m sure Democrats are very happy to have the unexpected extra seats they won in 2012.

(Update: for the Rockefeller family dynasty and where it stands now, see a nice article by Aaron Blake).

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.