WASHINGTON -- West Virginia on Tuesday sent a woman to the U.S. Senate for the first time, as voters elected Republican Shelley Moore Capito over Democratic opponent Natalie Tennant.
Capito, a seven-term representative for West Virginia's 2nd District, will replace Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat who is retiring after 30 years. In addition to making history as West Virginia's first woman senator, Capito's victory also marks the first time in 56 years that the state has elected a Republican senator.
Capito's triumph over Tennant, who has served as West Virginia's secretary of state since 2009, was hardly a surprise. She consistently held a double-digit advantage over Tennant in polls, as well as a 3-to-1 edge in fundraising.
The election was a testament to the flailing position of Democrats in West Virginia, a state that has turned increasingly conservative and overwhelmingly favored Republican candidates in recent presidential elections. Although Democrats continue to control the governor's office, open seats in Congress have largely favored Republican candidates.
Capito spent much of her campaign tying Tennant to President Barack Obama, who is deeply unpopular in West Virginia and received only 36 percent of the vote in 2012. Tennant tried throughout the cycle to distance herself from the White House, most of all by expressing her support for the coal industry and gun rights -- two issues that West Virginia voters rank highly among their top priorities.
Capito's win gave Republicans their first pick-up seat in this year's Senate elections. The GOP is expected to take control of the upper chamber from Democrats, who have held the majority since 2006.