CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is running for U.S. Senate.
The Democrat announced her candidacy to more than 75 people at the Culture Center in Charleston Tuesday morning as part of a statewide campaign kickoff.
Tennant's announcement essentially guarantees she'll square off against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in the race to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
In vowing to protect West Virginia's jobs, children and future, Tennant wasted little time before attacking Capito and her record.
"There's no way around it, Congresswoman Capito has been part of the problem in a broken Congress for the last 13 years," Tennant said. "A Congress that is full of obstructionists, full of gridlock and full of failed ideas.
"We can't have someone who always stands in our way and says no to ideas, says no to progress and says no to the people of this state, offering nothing in return."
Tennant scolded Capito, saying she supports privatizing Social Security benefits. She also pointed to several votes from the congresswoman in favor of what was commonly known as the Ryan Budget, a plan from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which would have turned Medicare into a voucher program.
In a video posted at www.natalietennant.com, Tennant also blasted Capito for being the only member of the national delegation to vote against the "Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Act."
The act, bearing the name of the late Sen. Byrd, D-W.Va., was first introduced in 2011 by Rockefeller in the wake of the tragedy at the Upper Big Branch mine.
At the time Capito said she thought the bill was rushed and would harm mines operating safely. She also has introduced pieces of mine safety legislation before and after the UBB disaster.
"After taking those votes in Congress, Representative Capito better not come to Marion County. She'll get an earful from angry people I know, who think Washington has got it all wrong," Tennant says in the video.
Local and national Republicans began firing away at Tennant even before her announcement.
"As the Chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party (Larry Puccio) confirmed, Harry Reid and the liberal D.C. Democrats handpicked (sic) Natlie Tennant to be their nominee," said Chris Hansen, Capito's campaign manager, in an emailed statement.
"It is no wonder they picked West Virginia's biggest supporter of Obamacare, the War on Coal and President Obama's entire extreme agenda."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, a national group advocating for a Republican majority in the Senate, labeled Tennant too liberal for West Virginia.
"Barack Obama doesn't have many fans in West Virginia, but his biggest one is without question Natalie Tennant," NRSC Executive Director Rob Collins said in an emailed statement.
"Natalie Tennant is an Obama-supporting liberal more in the mold of Harry Reid than Joe Manchin when it comes to coal and energy, jobs, and Obamacare," Collins said, referencing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Obama and national Democratic leaders are not popular in West Virginia, and tying Democrats in the state to national officials is a routine Republican political tactic.
In previous years Tennant campaigned for Obama in West Virginia, and in the past publicly voiced support for the president. While pledging to stand with Democrats on certain issues — Tennant mentioned student loan rates — the secretary of state also distanced herself from the president's energy policies.
Tennant quickly disavowed any actions from Obama or other national Democrats that she thinks could have a negative impact on coal mining.
She said she disagrees with Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency's "policies on coal" — she didn't specifically say which ones — and pledged to fight any Democrat or Republican who promotes policies that could hurt jobs in the coal or energy sector.
"Railing about the Obama administration's policy on coal, as satisfying as it may be, isn't enough," Tennant said. "When I'm elected to the United States Senate, I will push for a new partnership between coal industry and government that recognizes the contribution of coal to the world economy."
That partnership would include investments in "clean coal technology" and promoting coal exports through "sensible trade policies." More federal funding in dams, locks and ports that help facilitate coal shipping is also important, she said.