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.