Tennant announces run for Senate
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Aiming to keep the retiring Jay Rockefeller's U.S. Senate seat in the Democratic Party's column, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant announced Tuesday that she would run for the seat.
Tennant announced her United States Senate candidacy before more than 100 people gathered in the Great Hall at the state Culture Center in Charleston on Tuesday morning. Earlier, she made a similar announcement in Beckley.
Tennant, who was re-elected as secretary of state last year, talked about some of her priorities - and criticized her likely opponent in next year's general election, Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.
She criticized Capito's "support for privatizing Social Security and for turning Medicare into a voucher program - a voucher program that limits medical care for seniors like my dad and the thousands of other seniors across our state."
Tennant also said she disagrees with current White House coal policies.
"I will fight any Republican or any Democrat -- including President Barack Obama - who tries to kill our energy jobs, whether they are coal, natural gas, wind or water."
In the Senate, Tennant said, she would "push for a partnership in which the government promotes coal exports through sensible trade policies" and "for a 'new covenant' in which the coal industry keeps its promise for health care benefits and pensions to its miners."
Capito announced early this year, before she took office for her latest U.S. House term, that she would run for Senate. Shortly afterward, Rockefeller, 75, said that he would retire from the Senate in 2014, rather than seek a sixth six-year term.
"Harry Reid and the liberal D.C. Democrats handpicked Natalie Tennant to be their nominee. It is no wonder they picked West Virginia's biggest supporter of Obamacare, the war on coal and President Obama's entire extreme agenda," Chris Hansen, Capito's campaign manager, said in a news release.
Former state legislator Pat McGeehan has said he will challenge Capito in the Republican primary. A Capito-Tennant matchup could guarantee West Virginia its first female U.S. senator.
On Tuesday, Tennant criticized Congress for "voting to cut Pell Grants for college students and ignoring the increasing costs of college tuition....
"As your senator, I will fight to make it easier for West Virginians to send their children to college. My dad sold cattle to pay my tuition and I worked my way all the way through WVU."
While at WVU, Tennant was the school's first female Mountaineer mascot. She worked as a television anchorwoman before entering politics.
Tennant's announcement was attended by, among others, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, state Senate President Jeff Kessler, state House Speaker Tim Miley and Tennant's husband, Delegate Erik Wells, D-Kanawha.
Allen Tackett, the former adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, hosted the announcement. "Senator [Robert C.] Byrd worked hard every day for the state of West Virginia. That is what Natalie Tennant will do," Tackett said.
Rockefeller, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, said in a statement, "As West Virginians begin to consider seriously the question of who will serve us next in the United States Senate, my profound hope is that we will insist on a person who cares for our state and will fight for the needs of our people as hard and as steadfastly as I have always tried to do.
"I firmly believe that the next leader in the United States Senate is Natalie Tennant. She is a West Virginian through and through," Rockefeller said.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the state needs "to send a strong, independent leader to Washington."
Tennant grew up on a family farm in Marion County with five brothers and one sister.
She stressed her support for small businesses and praised small community banks near her home, including First Exchange and Fairmont Federal Credit, for "working to serve their communities.
"I get angry thinking about how Congress has given huge bailouts to banks that are 'too big to fail' while Wall Street executives collect huge bonuses.
"As your senator, I will focus on the small businesses on Main Street. I will make sure that Wall Street never again robs the working families of this country of their future."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said, "Tennant is a proven statewide leader. I have known Natalie and her family for many years. A dedication to public service runs deep in her blood."
Rockefeller said, "Republicans have offered West Virginia no solutions to the problems we face, and instead take action against us again and again -- voting to block mine safety reforms in the wake of the UBB tragedy, pushing to privatize Medicare and Social Security, and protecting their political friends on Wall Street at the expense of West Virginians.
"Our people cannot afford to let this Senate seat fall in the hands of the party of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell," he said. "We have too much at stake and too much to lose."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.