High-Profile West Virginia Democrat To Jump Into Senate Race


West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) seems poised to enter the race for outgoing Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) Senate seat.

Sources close to Tennant say she plans to jump into the race on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post, and will start making stops in key cities around the state.

Tennant, a longtime West Virginia Democrat who ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 gubernatorial primary, is highly anticipated in a race that Democrats worried may open themselves up to a key loss in the Senate. Tennant faces a tough race in a conservative state against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the likely Republican nominee for the seat.The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already signaled its enthusiasm, sending an email blast Friday morning highlighting Tennant’s decision to return $3 million of unused funds in her capacity as secretary of state. The email didn’t mention Tennant’s plans to run for Senate but the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm clearly wants Tennant to be on the radar of its supporters.

On Aug. 30, West Virginia’s The Charleston Daily Mail published the results of a poll showing Tennant would make the race more competitive. The poll, conducted by the Daily Mail and R.L. Repass and Partners the week of Aug. 15-22, found 45 percent of those surveyed would pick Capito in a Capito-Tennant matchup. Meanwhile, 40 percent said they would pick Tennant and 15 percent said they were undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 4.9 percent. According to local news outlet MetroNews, Tennant was encouraged by the poll.

Tennant stands to attract the backing of national Democratic groups, including Emily’s List, which previously backed her in her 2011 governor’s race. Tennant also attracted attention as West Virginia’s first female secretary of state.

A graduate of West Virgnia University and former television anchor, Tennant has previously served on the boards of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and The American Heart Association.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled Tennant’s entry into the race in mid-August when he said in a Nevada radio interview that Democrats would be “very competitive” in West Virginia.