Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Local and state leaders expressed their gratitude and regrets Friday when they learned that U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., had announced that he did not plan to seek re-election.
Rockefeller said that he does not plan to run for another term in 2014. Local leaders said that his retirement, along with the passing of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., will be a big loss both for southern West Virginia and the state as a whole.
Robert Holroyd, a Princeton attorney and longtime leader with the local Democratic Party who knows Rockefeller personally, said Rockefeller’s seniority and that of the late Byrd made West Virginia’s delegation one of the strongest in the U.S. Senate.
“With him and Senator Byrd being lost to us, it’s devastating,” Holroyd said. “We had one of the most powerful delegations in the U.S. Senate of any state.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is good, but he is years away from having the seniority Rockefeller now possesses, Holroyd said.
Rockefeller has been “instrumental” in getting money for local road projects and local infrastructure, Holroyd said.
“He was on top of federal aid for our schools and law enforcement. He got us a lot of money for those endeavors,” Holroyd added. “In addition to the things he’s done economically, he’s just a nice guy and everyone likes him. You can’t be around him for five minutes without realizing that he’s real. Given his financial upbringing, he could have done anything he wanted, but he chose to come to West Virginia and help the people of West Virginia, and he’s done a good job of it.”
Gordon Lambert, president of the McDowell County Commission, agreed that Rockefeller’s retirement will be a loss for the region.
“Oh, it’s tremendous, what he’s done for our county,” Lambert said Friday afternoon. “He’s going to be sorely missed. Both of them, Rockefeller and Byrd, had great seniority, and there were the committees they served on and the offices they had. It’s unreal what West Virginia lost in those two people.”
Whoever wins Rockefeller’s office will have a lot of work to do, he said.
“I know they won’t have the power and the knowledge starting out, but I would hope they would continue to serve West Virginia and serve our counties as Senator Rockefeller has,” Lambert added.
Helping bring a federal prison to McDowell County is just one of the ways Rockefeller aided McDowell County.
“There’s so many things, I couldn’t even begin to start naming all of the things he’s done for us,” Lambert said.
Sen. Byrd continues to exert influence in Washington, D.C. even though he has passed away, said Delegate Clif Moore, D-McDowell, who also represents part of Mercer County.
“I don’t think people really understand the kind of influence that Senator Byrd had and Senator Rockefeller continues to have in DC,” Moore said. “People don’t understand the impact it’s going to have on McDowell County and Mercer County, and particularly the state of West Virginia. And the kind of influence they have, the kind of passion they had for the county, an ongoing commitment not only for McDowell County, but for the state of West Virginia, is amazing.”
Democratic officials on the state level expressed their thanks to Rockefeller.
“Saying ‘thank you’ does not go far enough to express the gratitude we have for Jay Rockefeller. He dedicated his life to public service and all West Virginians, and Americans, have benefited from his efforts,” said WV Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio. “Many children in West Virginia are living better lives because of Jay, our veterans are getting the respect they so deserve because of Jay, and our seniors feel more secure because of Jay. Senator Rockefeller has done great things for West Virginia. While I am so happy for Senator Rockefeller and his family to be able to enjoy his retirement together, it is my hope that whomever replaces him in the Senate will have the same commitment to put our people above politics.”