MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Monday she'll seek Democrat Jay Rockefeller's seat in the Senate, setting up the possibility of a high-profile battle with a popular seven-term congresswoman who also wants the job.
Tennant confirmed her plans hours before she was set to make the announcement at Tamarack in Beckley, though she declined to comment further until the event.
Additional announcements were planned today and Wednesday in various parts of the state.
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant will run for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Jay Rockefeller, who has chosen not to seek re-election.
Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito announced last fall that she would run, too, well before Rockefeller announced in January that he would not seek a sixth term.
If Tennant and Capito each win their respective party primaries next spring, West Virginia could elect a woman senator for the first time.
Tennant's announcement came as no surprise. Even the National Republican Senatorial Committee anticipated her run.
Last week, it issued a statement calling her a "cookie-cutter liberal" and declaring her positions on coal, energy, abortion, gun rights, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Affordable Care Act "far too liberal" for West Virginia.
Monday night, state Democrat Party Chair Larry Puccio called Tennant "the people's candidate" while attacking Capito for votes on minimum wage and coal safety regulations.
"Throughout my time, I have yet to see West Virginia voters recruit a candidate to enter a race as strongly as they have Secretary of State Natalie Tennant," he said in an e-mailed statement.
Tennant is currently serving her second, four-year term as the state's top elections official.
The former TV reporter and anchor campaigned on her efforts to bring the office's business filing and licensing services online. She also touted the fact that her office had overseen seven elections in less than three years, including special elections for governor and U.S. Senate. She ran unsuccessfully for governor in one of those elections in 2011.
Tennant has a bachelor's degree in journalism from West Virginia University, where she also served as the school's first female Mountaineer mascot. She also has a master's degree in corporate and organizational communication.