By Mannix Porterfield
Ending months of speculation about her political future, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is making Beckley her first stop today in two announcements about her plans for 2014, and smart money says that she will attempt to succeed retiring West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
A campaign aide declined to be specific about Tennant’s plans, saying only the secretary is going to put the brakes on the rumor mill, fed largely by her admirers on the social network Facebook.
Several weeks ago, a “draft Tennant” move was set afoot was there, in an attempt to find a Democrat with name recognition to take on Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., should the 2nd District congresswoman survive the primary with two others in her party.
Three other Democrats already have filed pre-candidacy papers to run for the office, as well as two Republicans and a minority party candidate.
“She’s going to share with the people of West Virginia what her plans are and how she has come to that decision, what she thinks is the right thing for her to do,” a Tennant aide said.
A spokesman at Capito’s office in Charleston declined to comment, saying any advance response before the formal announcement would be premature.
A farm girl born on Christmas Day in 1967, the secretary first won her current office in 2008, outpacing former House Majority Leader Joe DeLong and former state Sen. Billy Wayne Bailey, D-Wyoming, in the primary. She lost her first time out in 2004 by a scant 1,108 votes.
Before capturing re-election last year, she attempted to win the governor’s mansion but placed third in the Democratic primary of 2011, behind eventual winner Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne.
Upon graduation with a degree in journalism at West Virginia University, where she was the first female to serve as the Mountaineer mascot, Tennant launched a broadcasting career, working as an anchor/reporter at WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, and at WCHS-TV in Charleston.
Tennant is married to state Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, and the couple has a child.
Capito announced her intentions last fall, and Rockefeller then disclosed in early January he wouldn’t seek re-election to the office that former two-term West Virginia governor has held since winning it in 1984.
The 75-year-old Rockefeller said at the time that after nearly half a century in the public eye he decided next year is “the right time for me to find new ways to fight for the causes I believe in and to spend more time with my incredible family.”
Democrats who have filed pre-candidacy papers with Tennant’s office to seek the Senate seat are Sheirl Fletcher of Morgantown, David Harless of Charleston and David Wamsley of Williamstown.
Republicans officially in the running are Scott “Cody” Reagan of Salt Rock, Cabell County, and Edwin Ray Vanover of Bluefield.
A former Beckley resident, onetime television news anchor, Martin Staunton, had filed pre-candidacy papers to run, but abandoned the race after moving to another state.
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