WATCH LIVE: West Virginia Senate debate
Watch the West Virginia debate for U.S. Senate at 7 p.m. EDT tonight, featuring Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D). West Virginia Public Broadcasting will live stream the event in the player above.
West Virginia's two major party candidates for U.S. Senate take to the stage tonight for their only televised debate before November's general election.
Recent polls show that Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) holds a double-digit lead over her opponent, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D).
The candidates are vying for a seat left open by departing Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, who chose not to run for a sixth term. Capito's high poll numbers could mean a Republican takeover on Nov. 4 — a major win in the GOP's quest for control of the U.S. Senate, and a symbolic victory in a state that, for almost 60 years, has elected only Democratic senators.
Either candidate would be the first woman to represent West Virginia in the U.S. Senate.
Energy policy will likely be a central theme in tonight's debate, as both Capito and Tennant support protections for their state's coal mining industry. The two likewise agree on gun rights, both opposing a federal firearms registry or expansions to background checks. Look for them to diverge over coal mine safety, healthcare, especially Mediaid expansion, and the federal budget.
Tennant is expected to stake her Democratic credentials in economic policy. She has supported efforts to increase the minimum wage and pushback against the financial sector. She has worked to paint Capito as a big bank insider. For her part, Capito will likely attempt to link Tennant to President Obama, who won no West Virginia counties in 2012.
The debate broadcasts out of the Clay Center in Charleston, West Virginia, and is expected to last 60 minutes.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting, in association with AARP West Virginia, the West Virginia Press Association, and MetroNews, sponsor. Hoppy Kercheval, host of MetroNews' "Talkline," moderates. PBS NewsHour will live stream the event.
Third-party candidates John Buckley (Libertarian), Bob Henry Baber (Mountain Party) and Phil Hudok (Constitution Party) will not participate in tonight's debate, following AARP's criteria for candidate inclusion.
Follow the debate on Twitter by using the hash tag #WVSenateDebate.