“The 75-year-old Democrat’s decision comes at a time when his popularity is threatened because of his support for President Barack Obama, who is wildly unpopular in the state, and his willingness to challenge the powerful coal industry, which he said has used divisive, fear-mongering tactics to wrongly blame the federal government for its problems.
… Rockefeller said the peak moment of his career may have been threatening to keep the Senate in session over Christmas break if they didn’t pass the 1992 Coal Act. The measure preserved retirement benefits for miners and their families, and he credited the passing of it with averting a national coal strike.
Rockefeller’s retirement was widely expected and puts the seat held by Democrats since 1958 in jeopardy for the party. Within weeks of November’s elections, Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito vowed to run for the seat in 2014.