(CBS NEWS) Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., announced today that he will not seek a sixth Senate term when his current term is up in 2014.
"It's time now, or pretty soon, for me to do public service in new ways and for Sharon and my family to be my first priorities," Rockefeller said at a news conference in Charleston, West Virginia today.
The longtime senator first announced the news to the Associated Press this morning, but speculation about his future in the Senate had been rampant. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., had previously announced her intent to run for the seat, regardless of Rockefeller's decision.
Rockefeller is the great-grandson of oil baron John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil who became the country's first billionaire in the late 1800s. He is the only elected Democrat in a family that's traditionally featured moderate Republicans.
The 75-year-old was first elected to the Senate in 1984 while he was in the middle of his second term as governor and, until 2010, served alongside Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who was the longest serving senator when he died that year.
The Democrat has won relatively easily elections despite the state's conservative makeup, but recently he has become more outspoken against the coal industry, which is the primary economic engine in the state. The tension escalated when he started to speak out against the mining industry's impact on the environment and the need to expand its economy beyond coal. This past summer, he called on coal industry lobbyists to stop their "scare tactics" in a fight against pollution standards. Rockefeller also said "he's just had it" with the coal industry's attacks on President Obama and his administration's efforts to minimize coal mining waste.
During his time in the Senate, he also worked on national issues. After initially supporting the war in Iraq he came out against it, saying the George W. Bush administration manipulated the public about the war. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2007-2009, he was one of the few lawmakers briefed on the CIA's use of waterboarding. In 2009, he became chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee.