Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said Friday he will not run for a sixth term in 2014, when his current term ends, calling that "the right moment for me to find new ways to fight for the causes I believe in and to spend more time with my incredible family."
The announcement came in an event at the Culture Center Great Hall in Charleston, W. Va. Rockefeller, surrounded by friends and family and backed by a line of photos on easels chronicling his life in the Senate, was greeted with a standing ovation as he and wife Sharon Percy Rockefeller, who introduced him, took to the podium to make the announcement.
The live stream only worked intermittently, with more buffering than uninterrupted video, which was somehow appropriate since Rockefeller has long talked about the need for better broadband connectivity in his home state. C-SPAN was planning to cover the announcement, but it had trouble connecting to a satellite feed of the eventl.
Rockefeller has been one of the strongest voices for online privacy, a cybersecurity bill backed by the White House, inquiries into the impact of TV, online and video game content on kids, and was instrumental in legislation to auction broadcast spectrum to help pay for an interoperable 911 emergency communications network.
That still gives him two years atop one of the Congress' most powerful committees, but opens up that spot, and the Senate seat, in time for contenders to start vying for it.
Rockefeller spoke at length about his fights for the rights of kids and the working poor. He said he had dug in to work for his state, trying to give every child a fair shot in life. To that point, he also talked about his work for and support of the FCC's e-rate program, which subsidizes broadband to classrooms. He said that has made a world of difference for children and their families.
He also said he had pushed for a "bedrock of financial support" in the tax code not only for the middle class, but also for working poor in his state and the country. "I'm on the finance committee. I can do that," he said.
Rockefeller talked primarily about his efforts for the state, including bringing jobs and businesses to West Virginia and making coal mining safer, with better pay and health care, and getting $50 million for a West Virginia airport. "I never stopped asking for more," for the state, he said.
"Our country cannot be as great as it should be unless our workers' voices are heard and respected by policymakers," he said. He said he had been just as single-minded about comprehensive health care reform, which he conceded was not that popular in West Virginia. "Health care should be a right, and not a privilege," he said.
He talked about the exhilarating fight to make the Internet safer. He called the Internet "a large and looming problem," something Congress does not seem to be tackling.
Rockefeller said he would not stop working for the causes he was passionate about or the people in his state.