Here's a little more background info on Tennant: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. - TPM, 9/13/13
The DSCC sees the West Virginia Senate as a top priority:The Marion County native is in her second four-year term as Secretary of State. She will be able to run in 2014 without giving up her current position. Her term expires in 2016.
Tennant has also been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2016. She ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in a 2011 special election, finishing third.
Tennant, 45, first made a name for herself while a student at WVU where she became the first woman chosen at the Mountaineer, the mascot for the University. She graduated in 1991 with a journalism degree and spent most of the next two decades as a television reporter and anchor in Clarksburg and Charleston.
Her husband, Erik Wells, is a Democratic State Senator representing Kanawha County.
There was evidence earlier Friday that Tennant had decided to join the race when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent out a release of a Charleston Gazette story about her. The subject line was, “Tennant’s cost saving measures saves West Virginia $3 million.”
In that story, Tennant described herself as a “fiscal hawk.” - West Virginia Metro News, 9/13/13
Now of course Republicans will have their ammo against Tennant but she also has great strengths:The race will be key to Democrats’ efforts to retain control of the Senate majority next year, given a number of tough reelection races for red-state Democrats and the 2014 retirements of longtime members of the upper chamber, including West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
Democrats hold a vast registration edge in West Virginia, though split ticket voters were the norm in 2012. Voters went for Mitt Romney over President Barack Barack Obama by nearly a two-to-one margin, while Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin easily won reelection over John Raese. - Politico, 9/13/13
Tennant's opponent, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R. WV), is the establishment favorite despised by right-wing groups like The Club For Growth and she will have to get through her primary first. Capito is going up against former state Del. Pat McGeehan and a few other no name characters. Republicans haven't won a Senate election in West Virginia since 1956. Tennant's husband, state Sen. Erik Wells (D. WV), could play a key role in Tennant's campaign. Wells, a military veteran, challenged Capito in 2000 and outperformed expectations, though Capito kept her seat. I've long been arguing that Tennant would be a great candidate for Senate and I am looking forward to her campaign. Stay tuned.She’s been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention twice before, and campaigned for Obama in 2008 in West Virginia. She’s also made comments Republicans have suggested were a defense of President Obama’s policies on coal, which remain controversial in West Virginia, where coal production is a significant part of the economy.
Brook Hougesen, spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, immediately drew comparisons between Tennant and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a statement on her entrance into the race.
“Natalie Tennant is a cookie-cutter liberal more in the mold of Harry Reid (D-Nev.) than Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on issues like coal, energy, the EPA, ObamaCare, abortion and protecting the 2nd Amendment," she said.
She also suggested that Tennant is strategically useful for Republicans, because she could draw resources and energy from other candidates.
“Strategically, Tennant is great for Republicans in that she's enough of a mirage to keep National Democrats and donors walking through the desert without offering the ability to ever drink," Hougesen said.
And she was trounced in the Democratic primary for West Virginia’s 2011 gubernatorial race, taking only 17 percent of the vote. The candidate who finished second, state House Speaker Rick Thompson, decided not to run in the Senate race.
However, she’ll likely receive significant support from outside Democratic groups, including EMILY’s List, who endorsed her in that gubernatorial race.
And West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio told The Hill enthusiasm for Tennant to run was high.
“I’ve been involved for some time in the political arena, and I’ve never seen the recruitment effort from the voters in West Virginia asking so strongly for an individual to enter this race,” he said. - The Hill, 9/15/13