CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Democrat Natalie Tennant wasted no time attacking her Republican opponent, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, after each easily won their respective party primary contests.
Tennant cast the contest as a battle between big money politics and blue-collar grit.
"I view this race as a clear choice between the Washington politics and Wall Street dollars that Congresswoman Capito represents, and the West Virginia values and working families that I represent," Tennant said Tuesday night, forecasting what could be a bruising bout to be West Virginia's first female senator.
Capito, the favorite to win November's general election, criticized Tennant's tone.
"I'm not going to engage in personal, negative attacks," Capito said. "She's been doing that from the very beginning, and I think people are tired of that kind of campaigning."
There are nearly twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans in West Virginia, and the state hasn't elected a GOP Senator since the 1950s. But Capito is the favorite to win the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, thanks in large part to President Barack Obama's unpopularity in coal country.
The anti-Obama sentiment will no doubt be prevalent in two congressional contests. In the 3rd district, longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall is considered vulnerable and could have his bid for a 20th term derailed by Democrat-turned-Republican Evan Jenkins. Rahall is the only remaining Democrat among the state's congressional delegation.
In the 2nd district, the seat currently held by Capito, former Maryland Republican Party chairman and state senator Alex Mooney emerged from a crowded field to win the party's nomination. The district is fairly evenly split among Democratic and Republican voters, but the Democratic president's unpopular policies give the GOP an apparent edge. Ex-West Virginia Democratic Party chairman Nick Casey handily won the party's nomination to face Mooney.
Many West Virginians view the Obama administration's proposed pollution rules on coal-fired plants, among other regulations, as an affront to the coal industry. Coal is not only a key facet of the state's cultural identity, it's a major economic driver. A statue of a coal miner stands in front of the state Capitol.