Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV announced yesterday he won't seek a sixth term next year, posing a challenge for Democrats to keep the seat representing West Virginia.

His departure will give Republicans a chance to pick up a seat in a state where President Barack Obama received only 36 percent of the vote last year.

Seven-term Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, 59, said Nov. 26 that she would run for the Senate seat that Rockefeller, 75, first won in 1984.

West Virginia votes Democratic in most statewide elections, though voters have favored GOP candidates in the past three presidential races.

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West Virginia's other senator, Democrat Joe Manchin, won re-election in 2012 with 60.5 percent, following a campaign in which he distanced himself from Obama.

"When Capito announced her intentions, that made it a serious contest, and now Rockefeller's retirement raises the stakes even higher" in the state's 2014 Senate race, said Nathan Gonzales, political analyst for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington. -- Bloomberg News