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Senator Shelley Wellons Moore Capito is a leading figure in the Republican Party in West Virginia. She was born November 26, 1953, in Glen Dale, the daughter of the best-known politician to come out of that community, Arch A. Moore Jr. Her father served six terms in the House of Representatives and three terms as governor of West Virginia.

Capito began her political career by getting elected to the House of Delegates from Kanawha County in 1996 and 1998. In 2000, when Bob Wise decided to run for governor instead of for reelection to the congressional seat he had held for 18 years, Capito won the Second District seat and became the first Republican in the House of Representatives from West Virginia since the early 1980s. She was only the second woman to represent West Virginia in Congress. The first was Elizabeth Kee (1951-65).

In the November 2000 election, she won by a narrow margin of about 5,600 votes in a district that covered 20 counties, stretching from the Ohio to the Potomac. Capito defeated former state Sen. Jim Humphreys, a Democrat and successful attorney who spent $6.4 million in his losing cause. Capito had only $1.4 million in campaign funds, but received help from spending by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In 2002, when redistricting reduced the district to 18 counties, she faced a rematch with Humphreys. He spent even more heavily than in 2000: more than $8 million, including about $2.5 million in the Democratic primary. Capito spent about $2.5 million and defeated him in the general election by a much bigger margin than in 2000. In her reelection bid in 2004, Capito spent only a fraction as much in defeating Democrat Erik Wells. She was reelected in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012.

Capito benefited from beginning her congressional career at a time when fellow Republicans held a majority in the House of Representatives and wanted to make sure they retained seats such as hers. Consequently, she received favorable committee assignments and more attention than is accorded to most newcomers. Being a swing vote on several key bills also drew attention to Capito, and she already had wide name recognition in West Virginia.

Her congressional assignments included the House Financial Services Committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Small Business Committee. She chaired the House Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit. In 2003, colleagues selected Capito to be co-chairwoman of the Congressional Women’s Caucus. Also that year, she was appointed vice-chairwoman of the House Prescription Drug Task Force. She was one of the sponsors of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, signed into law in December 2003. She was one of the founders of the Congressional Coal Caucus.

In 2014, Capito won the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Jay Rockefeller, who did not seek reelection. She is the only woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from West Virginia. She was reelected in 2020, receiving more than 70 percent of the vote, and was named ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. In 2023, she became vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference, making her one of the highest-ranking members of her party in the Senate and the most prominent figure in West Virginia’s resurgent Republican Party.

Before entering politics, Capito worked as a career counselor at West Virginia State College (now University) and as director of the West Virginia Board of Regents Educational Information Center. She earned a bachelor of science degree in zoology from Duke University in 1975 and a master of education from the University of Virginia in 1976.

She is married to Charles L. Capito, and they have two sons and a daughter. Their son Moore Capito served in the West Virginia Legislature from 2016 to 2023; he resigned in December 2023 to focus on his candidacy for governor. In the May 2024 primary, he finished second to Patrick Morrisey, who won the gubernatorial nomination. In that same primary, her nephew Riley Moore, the current state treasurer, won the Republican nomination for the Second District congressional seat.

This Article was written by Jim Wallace

Last Revised on May 15, 2024

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Cite This Article

Wallace, Jim "Shelley Moore Capito." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 15 May 2024. Web. 18 July 2024.


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