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 pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.