West Virginia Secretary of State, Natalie Tennant (D), joined the race for retiring Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D) seat on Wednesday and immediately became the presumptive nominee for her party. She joins the Republican favorite Congresswoman, Shelley Moore Capito.
Tennant’s announcement focused on her lifetime spent in West Virginia and the need to bring more jobs to the state and to strengthen the education system. Within 24 hours of her announcement she sent a fundraising plea to supporters, indicating the race may well be the most expensive U.S. Senate race the state has seen.
Tennant was the last statewide elected official to make a decision on the race. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, State Treasurer John Perdue and State Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis all passed on the race earlier this year. Capito is the only major elected official on the Republican side to consider the race.
Tennant first ran for Secretary of State in 2004, but lost to former Congressman and Secretary of State Ken Hechler, who in turn lost to Betty Ireland (R). In 2008, Ireland retired and Tennant won the primary and general elections. She was reelected in 2012 and was a candidate in the 2011 special Democratic primary for governor.
The senate election will not only determine the next U.S. Senator from West Virginia, but also who the first female U.S. Senator to represent the state will be, assuming Capito and Tennant win their respective primaries.
Rod Snyder, a resident of Shenandoah Junction, and a former president of the West Virginia Young Democrats and Young Democrats of America believes Tennant will make the race tough for Capito.
“Natalie Tennant’s entry into the race provides Democrats with their strongest chance to hold the U.S. Senate seat while also boosting other down ticket Democratic candidates. Secretary Tennant has twice won statewide and she remains one the most popular political figures in West Virginia,” said Snyder.
Michael Lesko, president of the Shepherd Republican Club, believes the seat to be a prime pick-up opportunity for Republicans:
“The Senate race is up on the list since the GOP does not control the Senate and gaining a senator will help on multiple fronts.”
Vicky Faith, a senior women’s studies minor, thinks “it’s fantastic and long overdue,” for West Virginia to send a woman to the United States Senate.
“Being in such a right [leaning] state is difficult for a woman and hopefully having a woman represent us we won’t have to be so afraid for our rights,” said Faith.
“Roll Call,” a print and online publication rates the race as “leans Republican,” meaning the advantage is with Capito, but that the upper hand can shift at any point.
The primary election will take place May 13, 2014. The top finisher from the Democratic ballot and the Republican ballot will face one another in the November general election.