So who may run to replace Rockefeller in U.S. Senate? - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

So who may run to replace Rockefeller in U.S. Senate?

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Even before Sen. Jay Rockefeller took the stage in Charleston Jan. 11 to announce he will not seek another term in the U.S. Senate, the state has been buzzing about who may run in 2014.

In November, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announce her intentions to run for the seat Rockefeller has occupied for nearly 30 years. And with that announcement the guessing game of who else might run took off.

Now that Rockefeller has made it official he won't seek re-election, the game has kicked into overdrive.

"I think a Democrat will emerge — you have Carte Goodwin, Booth Goodwin, Natalie Tennant, Rick Thompson — some Democrat will emerge," said Neil Berch, associate professor of political science at West Virginia University.

While it may seem Capito has a clear shot at the newly open Senate seat, Berch said it may be more difficult for her than some think. 

"It's also not totally clear to me that Capito has a clear path to the Republican nomination," Berch said. "There's been the Tea Party and the Club for Growth people making noise about her not being conservative enough. There could be a challenge for her from the right, but I think she would be the strongest Republican candidate."

No matter who takes the seat, the state will suffer a major loss of seniority in the Senate, a key determinant of committee positions. 

"Obviously loss of seniority is something that is somewhat harmful," Berch said. "Rockefeller probably used his seniority more for policy stuff where Byrd used his for specific things for West Virginia."

Capito may bring lawmaking experience, but all the seniority she has built in the House will be left at the Senate door if she wins the seat. 

"Whoever comes into the Senate obviously, is going to be brand new," said Marybeth Beller, an assistant professor at Marshall University. "Even Congresswoman Capito, should she be the winner of the seat, her seniority in the House will not come with her to the Senate. She'll be starting over as a new senator and will not have that clout. "

Beller, chairwoman of the political science department at Marshall, said Capito would be very tough to beat. Capito's early announcement, she said, proves her intent to win the race and also allowed her party to seek a replacement in the House. 

Diane Luensmann, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, said Jan. 11 her boss is considering a run for the U.S. Senate. Rahall has served in Congress since 1977, and serves as the ranking Democrat on several committees.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said she "has not ruled out any decisions and this point, but I am honored and humbled to be considered."

Another potential Senate candidate is one of the few people in West Virginia who can say he is a former U.S. senator: Carte Goodwin.

Goodwin, 38, a lawyer with Goodwin & Goodwin, was appointed by then-Gov. Joe Manchin in July 2010 to fill the vacancy created on the Senate by the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd. Goodwin was Manchin's chief counsel, and his wife, Rochelle, works for Rockefeller.

Goodwin served in the Senate from July 20-Nov. 10, 2010. He is considered to be the youngest former senator in the United States.

Goodwin said he would be flattered if his name was considered but said today was not the day to be talking about possible replacements for Rockefeller.

"Today is Jay Rockefeller's day and a day to reflect on the man who dedicated five decades to the state," Goodwin said.

Goodwin said during his short time in the Senate he had an opportunity to work closely with Rockefeller, and he worked closely with Manchin. Those experiences, he said, gave him the opportunity to see first-hand the level of commitment it takes to be a public servant.

"I'm interested and will continue to be interested in public service," he said. "But there will be a lot of time later for people to discuss this. Today is his day."