WHEELING - A top campaign official for Democrat Senate candidate Natalie Tennant says he misspoke when he said Tennant supports most of President Barack Obama's policies.
Maj. Gen. Allen Tackett, retired head of the West Virginia National Guard and Tennant's campaign chairman, made the comments prior to a campaign event in Logan on Saturday when he came to Tennant's aid as she was being questioned by a coal miner.
A 90-second video, captured and posted to YouTube this week by a tracker following Tennant on the campaign trail, shows a tense exchange between Tennant and the coal miner, who reportedly is one of 1,100 notified last week they'll likely be laid off by mid-October as Alpha Natural Resources idles 11 southern West Virginia mines, due in part, the company said, to tightening federal regulations.
In the video, the miner questions Tennant on her past support for Obama and accuses her of evading his questions. Slightly more than a minute into the exchange, Tackett steps in.
"Because on most of (Obama's) policies and stuff, she supports, but the policies on coal ... ," Tackett said, cut off at that point by the miner.
Tackett told media outlets this week he was trying to defuse the situation and misspoke in the heat of the moment.
Tennant's opponent in the Senate race, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was asked about the exchange during a campaign stop this week in Wheeling. Capito called Tennant's record of support for Obama "pretty plain."
"I certainly feel that the president's policies have hurt our economy," Capito said.
Tennant campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue said "going after a military hero like Gen. Tackett is a new low" for Capito's campaign.
"Congresswoman Capito is desperate to run against President Obama, because she knows her record working for Wall Street millionaires doesn't stand up to Natalie Tennant's record working for West Virginia families. In fact, Congresswoman Capito is so afraid of the truth getting out that she's refusing to debate Natalie on the issues."
Despite campaigning for Obama in 2008 and again in 2012, Tennant has distanced herself from the president, who is wildly unpopular in West Virginia.
She has said she opposes expanded federal background checks on gun purchases and has called for the elimination of the so-called "employer mandate" from the Affordable Care Act.
She testified Thursday during a public hearing in Pittsburgh, opposing proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal-fired power plants, and following her comments joined United Mine Workers of America members and supporters for a march outside the William S. Moorhead Federal Building where the hearings were being held.