PARKERSBURG -Party leaders from Wood County are understandably split along party lines over U.S. Rep. Shelly Capito's recent announcement to run for U.S. Senate.
Earlier this week, Capito, R-W.Va., announced her intention to run against longtime incumbent Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
Greg Smith, chairman of the Wood County Republican Executive Committee, said party officials have been waiting for Capito, 59, to make such a move and the time has come to oust the 75-year-old Rockefeller, who is out of step with his constituents.
Rockefeller, who has served in the Senate since 1985, has not yet announced if he will seek another term in 2014.
Smith said Republicans think it's time Rockefeller was ousted.
"He's one of the most liberal senators we have," he said.
Smith said the 75-year-old Democrat is out of touch with many of his constituents.
"Look at his voting record: He's for gun control, he supported Obamacare, he's for cap-and-trade and has made several comments about coal being the energy of the past."
Smith noted Rockefeller stands with President Obama; the same president who failed to win a single county in West Virginia, he said.
"In Wood County and other northern counties -where there are more Republicans - (Rockefeller) hasn't reflected the values of West Virginians for a long time.
Harold Brown, chairman of the Wood County Democratic Executive Committee, thinks Capito is making a mistake, not only allowing Rockefeller to retain his seat, but providing state Democrats a chance to retake the Second District House seat.
Brown said there is a stark contrast between Rockefeller and Capito.
"He's a compassionate person that has worked hard for the ordinary person. Especially, those who have needs - health, education, employment and work place safety. Capito, on the other hand, has supported the primary interest of big money."
Brown pointed to Capito's support of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan and said she has supported increased military spending.
"There is quite a contrast between the two. I have difficulty believing people in West Virginia will support her."
"The good news is I don't think she can prevail over Rockefeller and I think it opens up an excellent opportunity for the Democrats to recover the Second District seat," he added.
Brown said there are "several" solid Democratic candidates who could seize the Congressional seat. He declined to identify them.
"I could name some (including a local one), but I won't," he said.
"She may be volunteering for an early departure from Congress."
Smith thinks Capito announcing her intentions now will cause Republicans who might have considered challenging Rockefeller to seek office elsewhere. There are a number of viable candidates to step into Capito's congressional seat, including former secretary of state Betty Ireland, he said. But Smith couched his statement, noting he had no inside information.
"The party doesn't pick the candidate," he said. "We may encourage people to run."
"This creates a lot of jockeying."
He also noted Capito - despite being a congressional representative outside of Wood County - made several trips here to speak and meet with officials.
Shelly will do well here," he said. "We are looking forward to sending Jay back to New York."