CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Democratic candidates hoping to fill Jay Rockefeller's U.S. Senate seat must be tenacious campaigners, secure support from state and national party leaders and raise massive amounts of money, political observers said Friday.
The winner in the Democratic primary likely would face U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the only Republican yet to announce plans to run for the Senate seat in 2014.
"This is going to be an aggressive and high-finance campaign," said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper. "They better have it all. Getting through the primary is going to be a battle royal."
The names of numerous potential Democratic candidates were tossed around after Rockefeller announced Friday that he would not seek re-election.
At the top of the list: former West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton.
Caperton, who lives in Charleston, served 13 years as president of the College Board, which administers SAT and AP exams. He was in New York on Friday and declined comment.
Caperton said he plans to attend Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's inaugural on Monday and might discuss his plans next week. "If he's interested," Carper said of Caperton, "he would be formidable."
Other possible candidates mentioned include:
• Carte Goodwin, who was appointed U.S. senator after Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., died in 2010. Goodwin now works as a lawyer in Charleston. His wife, Rocky, is a senior aide to Rockefeller.
Goodwin, who declined to run for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would not say if he would seek Rockefeller's seat.
"Today is Senator Rockefeller's day," said Goodwin, who attended Rockefeller's news conference Friday. "While serving in the Senate, I learned firsthand about Senator Rockefeller's passion and dedication. Today, we're celebrating his 50 years of public service."
• Retired Adjutant General Allen E. Tackett, who headed the West Virginia National Guard. Tackett was a close friend of Byrd.
• West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who said Friday she would give the U.S. Senate run "strong consideration."
"I haven't ruled anything in or anything out," Tennant said. "I'm honored to be considered as a person who would follow in [Rockefeller's] footsteps."
• Ralph Baxter, CEO of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, one of the world's largest law firms, with more than 1,100 attorneys. San Francisco-based Orrick has a Global Operations Center in Wheeling. Baxter, who lived in West Virginia as a boy, serves on the West Virginia Workforce Investment Council and as a board member of the West Virginia Education Alliance.
Other potential candidates are state Sen. Corey Palumbo, Senate President Jeff Kessler, former Democratic Party chairmen Nick Casey and Mike Callaghan, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, state Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, and former state Sen. Jim Humphreys.
"The list of people who will talk about running will be large," Carper said.
Several political observers suggested that Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis might consider a run, but the court's rules would require her to step down as a justice if she entered the race -- something that's unlikely to happen.
Political consultants predicted a small field of Democratic candidates if Caperton decides to run, and a larger group if he does not.