Capito challenges Rockefeller for Senate

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) shares remarks at Girl Scouts At 100: The Launch of ToGetHerThere at Capitol Hill Cannon House Office Bldg, Caucus Room on February 1, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) on February 1, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Less than a month after the 2012 election, West Virginia Rep. Shelly More Capito is already planning her next move: On Monday, she announced a 2014 bid against Democrat Jay Rockefeller, the state's longtime incumbent senator, who is currently serving out his fifth term.

Capito, a seven-term Republican congresswoman, announced her bid in a Monday morning press conference.

Her early move signals possible optimism that Rockefeller, who is 75, either doesn't plan to run for re-election, or that a tough challenge for his seat could be the tipping point in his decision to retire.

Moore, who is already being touted as a moderate Republican potentially capable of taking on the longtime Democrat, is already fielding attacks for being insufficiently conservative.

"Is Shelly Moore Capito the 'right' kind of Republican U.S. Senate Candidate?" asked the conservative group Club for Growth, in a Monday morning email. "The GOP Establishment says 'Yes', but Recent History says 'No.'"

In a statement, Club for Growth PAC President Chris Chocola likened Capito to establishment 2012 Senate candidates like Reps. Denny Rehberg and Rick Berg and former Rep. Heather Wilson: "All three had the 'right' resumes, and all three had no 'divisive' primaries. Yet all three lost in races that were thought to be winnable," Chocola said. "The way back for the Republican Party is the way of Jeff Flake, Ted Cruz, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee."

So far, Rockefeller hasn't voiced his plans for the future. In a statement obtained by, he confirmed that "Congresswoman Capito called last week to let me know of her plans," which he said he "appreciated."

But, he added, "my total focus right now is on the national budget situation and the fight for West Virginia families - making sure the very wealthy finally start paying their fair share again, for the first time in decades, rebuilding a strong middle class, and creating real opportunity for those who are still struggling."

Taking a veiled shot at Capito's early announcement, he added that "West Virginians just want us to do our jobs, and for me that means focusing full-time on the serious issues at hand. Politics can wait."

"Everyone I talk to in West Virginia is tired of the non-stop campaigning," he said.

Democrats are defending 20 of the 33 Senate seats up for grabs in 2014.