CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two years before the 2014 election, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito formally announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate at a Monday morning news conference under the state Capitol rotunda.
Capito, a Republican, will run for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller since 1984.
Capito won her seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month. But before she's even sworn in to begin that term, she announced her plans to run for Senate.
She said Monday that, ironically, her early announcement of her Senate campaign plans would allow her to focus on her role in the House.
"The voters ... are fatigued. They have grown tired of the constant campaigning, and want us to govern," Capito said.
"It is time to focus on governing. For this reason, I have decided to make my political intentions for 2014 known now so that I can get back to work in Washington, and avoid disruptive political speculation."
Capito said she would not begin actively campaigning for the Senate immediately. Others didn't wait.
West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas released a three-paragraph statement Monday that did not mention Capito, but mentioned Rockefeller six times and President Obama twice.
"For far too long, Jay Rockefeller has been more interested in endearing himself to America's liberal elite than serving the good people of West Virginia," Lucas said.
After Capito's decision to run for Senate was reported Sunday night, Rockefeller said, "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.
"Beyond that big question, everyone I talk to in West Virginia is tired of the non-stop campaigning. West Virginians just want us to do our jobs," Rockefeller said in a statement. "For me that means focusing full time on the serious issues at hand. Politics can wait."
State Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio echoed those sentiments Monday. "I believe Senator Jay Rockefeller will continue to work for children, veterans, seniors, and all working men and women and their families in West Virginia," Puccio said. "This is another example of Jay Rockefeller putting the people of West Virginia first."
Chris Hamilton, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, attended Capito's formal announcement at the Capitol. He said his organization is likely to endorse Capito.
"We're excited. She has always been a staunch supporter of business and our industry in West Virginia," Hamilton said.
Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, praised both Rockefeller and Capito.
"The Chamber has taken no position in this race. We depend on our members," said Roberts, who was also at Capito's announcement. "She is clearly a popular political person. Every place she goes, people like her. West Virginia is ready for diversity."
Attacks from the right
Immediately after Capito's announcement Monday, she faced criticism from some of the more conservative elements of the national Republican Party. The conservative Club For Growth issued a statement asking if Capito is the "right" kind of Republican.
Chris Chocola, president of the conservative Club for Growth PAC, released a statement Monday criticizing Capito.
"Her candidacy will undoubtedly be cheered by the GOP establishment, and dire warnings will be issued against any 'divisive' primary challenges," said Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth and a former Indiana congressman. "The problem is that Congresswoman Capito's record looks a whole lot like the establishment candidates who lost this year.