Crowds, national media turn out as Elizabeth Warren campaigns for fellow Dem in Shepherdstown
SHEPHERDSTOWN – Elizabeth Warren, the junior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts who has quickly become a progressive champion, electrified a packed ballroom here Monday urging residents to elect West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant as the Mountain State’s first female U.S. Senator.
Warren, whose tough grilling of financial industry executives before the Senate Banking Committee made her a populist icon, on Monday afternoon forcefully made the case for Tennant to replace the retiring Jay Rockefeller.
“I strongly support Natalie’s campaign,” she said. “She will work in the Senate to make sure working families have a fighting chance to succeed in this country again.”
The crowd at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center was estimated by local Democrats to number more than 400. Many in the audience jumped to their feet and applauded at the conclusion of nearly every sentence uttered by Tennant and then by Warren and continually waved Tennant campaign signs.
Warren drew sharp contrasts between Tennant and her Republican opponent, Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, and stressed the importance of the contest for West Virginia’s working families.
“Time and again, I have watched [Capito] side with powerful financial interests over working people,” Warren told the crowd. “West Virginia deserves a senator like Natalie.”
Warren called on attendees to “devote a small part of every day” until Election Day Nov. 4 to work for Tennant’s campaign.
Others who spoke during the rally included Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty, also a Democrat, and West Virginia University law school student Ashley Hawkins.
Hawkins, a Jefferson County native and Shepherd University graduate, introduced both women and talked of the projected $100,000 student loan debt she’s facing once she finishes law school.
Tennant told the crowd of Warren’s effort to reduce the interest on student loan debt by closing tax loopholes for those earning more than $1 million a year. Warren’s push stalled in the Senate earlier this summer thanks to Republican opposition.
Berkeley County resident Hannah Williams – a Shepherd graduate who is commuting to grad school at American University – called comments made by Tennant and Warren regarding student loan debt as “a major highlight” of the day.
“I think of the issue of insurmountable student loan debt every day as a graduate student,” she said
Bryan Staggers, who drove from Morgantown to attend the rally, called Tennant and Warren “politicians who use their hearts and heads to make decisions.” He cited the “invigorated” crowd as proof that Tennant – the first woman ever to serve as WVU’s Mountaineer mascot back in the early 1990s – can make history again in November.
National coverage of Warren’s visit is seen as a major boost for Tennant, who is considered by many to be the underdog in the contest against Capito, who has served in Congress since 2001.
A story this week from The Associated Press found that Tennant had raised $777,000 in the second quarter (April 1 to July 1) while Capito raised $1.3 million in the same period..
Capito also has a $3.5 million cash on hand advantage.
Leaders of the Tennant campaign say they hope to see a spike in fundraising following Warren’s endorsement.
Within 30 minutes of the women’s appearance, the Tennant campaign sent out a news release tying Capito to the financial industry by highlighting her introduction, in 2011, of a bill to boost profits for banks and credit card companies by charging higher user fees for credit and debit cards.
Banking company Wells Fargo – the firm that hired Capito’s husband two weeks after the bill was introduced – spent nearly $6 million lobbying for the legislation, according to the Tennant news release.