Officials discuss Rockefeller’s decision

A sampling of the reaction Friday to the announcement that Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., will not run for re-election in 2014.

* State Treasurer John D. Perdue:

“With the announcement that U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller will not seek another term in office, I believe the state of West Virginia is losing one of its most valued and influential leaders of our generation.

“Sen. Rockefeller has been a strong political force for West Virginia not only as a U.S. senator, but also as a former governor. As a fellow Democrat, he has worked his entire political career to better the people of our great state and nation.

“I have been honored to work with him during my 39 years in state government on several initiatives and projects. Most notably in my mind is his commitment to higher education and his help on Capitol Hill as my office launched the state’s first college savings program.

“While I am disappointed to lose such a prominent leader and advocate for our state, Robin and I wish Sen. Rockefeller and his wife Sharon much success and happiness as they focus on their future and their family.”

* U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.:

“I still remember Jay’s first inaugural as governor. He told us, ‘My name is Rockefeller, but that will not pay our bills.’ He gave us more than his family name. He pledged his heart, mind and strength to us that day. For almost half a century, Senator Rockefeller’s service to his state and its families has never wavered from that commitment.

“We have fought many battles together, miners safety, health care, countless economic development initiatives and road projects. Through it all, Jay has been tireless in his work and his dedication never as much as flickered.

“When it comes to serving the good people of West Virginia, Jay Rockefeller’s true fortune lies in his abiding compassion and heart of gold. His departure from the United States Senate will leave a large hole in our own hearts. As for me, I will mourn the day Jay leaves the Senate.

“Yet, we cannot deny this still young man his due. Sharon and Jay deserve a break in a couple of years, but the final chapter in their productive partnership is far from finished. They will always be our family friends.”

* Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin:

“Throughout his years in public service, Sen. Rockefeller has championed many efforts for the people of West Virginia.

“As an original sponsor of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, he made it possible for more than 143,000 of West Virginia’s youngest citizens to receive the quality health care they deserve.

“Sen. Rockefeller also has maintained a legacy of improving mine safety by putting the safety and security of our miners first. Following the mining tragedies of Sago and Aracoma, he spearheaded an effort resulting in some of the most sweeping federal mine safety changes in a generation, including longer-lasting self-rescuers, quicker incident notification, and stricter fines.

“Thousands of military veterans now have access to benefits, a state nursing home, and home health care because Sen. Rockefeller led the charge on these and many other important veterans’ issues including the establishment of our state’s veterans cemetery, the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Institute, W.Va.”

* Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va.:

“As he completes his fifth term in the U.S. Senate, I want to thank Jay for his nearly half century of public service to the state of West Virginia and this country,” said Rep. McKinley. “From his beginnings as a VISTA volunteer in 1964 to his service as Delegate, Secretary of State, Governor and Senator, Jay has devoted much of his life to working on behalf of the people of the Mountain State. I wish him a fulfilling retirement to be spent with his wife, Sharon, and his children and grandchildren.”

* U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.:

“Gayle and I join all West Virginians in thanking Jay for representing our state for more than 40 years whether it was as a state legislator, secretary of state, our governor or as a member of the United States Senate. We wish him, his wife Sharon and their family only the best in their future endeavors, and I know that Jay will continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

“When I first arrived in Washington two and a half years ago, I couldn’t have received a warmer welcome from Jay and his staff, and I am so personally grateful for all their help. More importantly, in all his decades of public service, Jay has followed one guiding principle: to improve the lives of West Virginians. Jay’s heart has always been true, and we share the goal of serving the beautiful people of the state we love today and into the future.”

* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

“The nation and West Virginia are better places today thanks to Jay’s distinguished and selfless public service. Jay was a tireless and successful advocate for our nation’s children, and he was a leader in expanding their access to health care. Millions of families today are better off because of Jay’s tireless work on programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid.”

* U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:

“For more than a generation, Sen. Rockefeller has been a dedicated public servant, a brilliant legislator and a loyal colleague in the U.S. Senate. While we will greatly miss him in our caucus, I am confident we can elect an independent-minded Democrat to his seat next November. Democrats maintain nearly a two-to-one voter registration advantage over Republicans in West Virginia and I know there are a number of leaders there who will consider taking this next step to serve their state.”

* State Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas:

“Today is the next step in West Virginia’s conservative future. This 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate here will mean a clear choice for voters. Will folks support a Republican who will fight for our coal jobs and protect us from Washington, D.C.? Absolutely. The Republican Difference will be clear. Our pro-energy, pro-family candidate will be a stark contrast to the liberals that the West Virginia Democrat Party will offer. The future of this state is truly what’s at stake. It’s too valuable to trust to anyone who has spent the last four years helping Barack Obama destroy our jobs and crater this nation’s economy. It’s truly a time for choosing.”

* State Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio:

“Saying ‘thank you’ does not go far enough to express the gratitude we have for Jay Rockefeller. He dedicated his life to public service and all West Virginians, and Americans, have benefited from his efforts. Many children in West Virginia are living better lives because of Jay, our veterans are getting the respect they so deserve because of Jay, and our seniors feel more secure because of Jay. Senator Rockefeller has done great things for West Virginia. While I am so happy for Senator Rockefeller and his family to be able to enjoy his retirement together, it is my hope that whomever replaces him in the Senate will have the same commitment to put our people above politics.”

* Peter Davidson, Verizon Senior Vice President, Federal Government Relations:

“For nearly three decades in the Senate, Sen. Jay Rockefeller has championed the rights of consumers and has served the people of West Virginia with determination and grace. His ongoing legacy in the area of telecommunications and technology from his early work to create the Universal Service Program to his more recent spearheading of successful legislation for a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network is profound. Upon his departure his informed leadership of the complex world of telecommunications policy will be sorely missed.”

* Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee:

“Sen. Rockefeller’s decision not to seek re-election makes West Virginia an even stronger pickup opportunity for Republicans in 2014. Voters next year will have a clear choice between a Democrat who will be a loyal vote for President Obama and Harry Reid as they try to kill West Virginia’s coal industry and bankrupt our country with reckless government spending, versus a Republican who will serve as an effective check-and-balance on their liberal agenda and work to get our country’s economy back on track.”