CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat who has represented West Virginia in the U.S. Senate since 1985, announced Friday that he will not seek a sixth term in the Senate.
Rockefeller, 75, made his announcement at 11 a.m. Friday at the state Culture Center in Charleston.
He thanked "all West Virginians, who took me in, transformed me and supported me.
"There's a tremendous amount of greatness here," Rockefeller said, "but also a lot of hurt, and I have sought to ease life and the burdens of people who are forgotten."
Rockefeller's efforts to improve the Mountain State's economy included bringing the Toyota plant to Buffalo, which created 1,200 jobs and $1.3 billion in investments. Rockefeller also helped attract 20 other Japanese companies to West Virginia.
Rockefeller's support for aviation and airport improvements brought $400 million to the state, including $50 million to Charleston's Yeager Airport.
Throughout his public life, Rockefeller said, he has "been proud to stand with the working men and women of America -- miners, steelworkers, teachers and nurses, and everyone who deserves a fair wage, a safe place to work and basic health care."
He said his decision not to run for re-election was motivated by considerations of family, and not because of an election challenge from Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who announced shortly after November's election that she would run for Rockefeller's Senate seat in 2014.
At the presidential level, West Virginia has voted increasingly Republican. Some political observers predicted a close race between Rockefeller and Capito, partly because of Rockefeller's support for President Obama and his Affordable Care Act.
In his speech Friday, Rockefeller continued to strongly support the new health-care law.
"I know it's going to benefit West Virginia more than any other state," the state's senior senator said.
Over the years, Rockefeller's many successful efforts to improve health care include:
• Leading the passage of the Coal Act in 1992, which guaranteed 200,000 retired coal miners, along with their wives and widows, the lifetime health benefits coal companies had promised them.
Rockefeller called his efforts to pass that 1992 legislation his "peak moment" as senator. "I threatened to keep the Senate in session over Christmas if they did not pass the 1992 act."
• Writing legislation that created the Children's Health Insurance Programs, or CHIP, which, in 2011, covered 40,000 children in West Virginia and 8 million children nationwide.
• Supporting passage of the Affordable Care Act, which will provide health insurance for 42 million Americans, including 300,000 West Virginians.
The Affordable Care Act also will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with serious illnesses.
"The insurance companies did not like it, which makes me very proud," Rockefeller said. "They start dumping people when they get sick."
The new legislation also requires insurance companies to spend between 80 percent and 85 percent of all their money on providing health care, not on executive salaries and business expenses.
Rockefeller also mentioned his efforts to help schools with access to the Internet grow from 14 percent to 92 percent.