Natalie Tennant

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Natalie Tennant
Natalie Tennant.jpg
West Virginia Secretary of State
In office
January 19, 2009 - Present
Term ends
Years in position 6
PredecessorBetty Ireland (R)
Base salary$95,000
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 4, 2014
First electedNovember 4, 2008
Next generalNovember 8, 2016
Campaign $$624,940
Term limitsNone
High schoolNorth Marion High School
Bachelor'sWest Virginia University
Master'sWest Virginia University
Date of birthDecember 25, 1967
Place of birthFairview, W.Va.
Office website
Personal website
Campaign website
Natalie Tennant (b. December 25, 1967 in Fairview, W.Va.) is the 29th and current West Virginia Secretary of State. A Democrat, she was first elected to the statewide position in 2008 and assumed office on January 19, 2009.[1] Tennant won re-election on November 6, 2012, defeating Republican state Rep. Brian Savilla by a margin of 62.4 percent to 37.6 percent.[2] She first ran for the office in 2004 and lost by 1,108 votes.[3]

Tennant announced in September 2013 that she would run for election to the U.S. Senate representing West Virginia in 2014.[4] Tennant won the Democratic nomination in the primary on May 13, 2014, but lost the general election on November 4th of the same year.[5]

Prior to her election, Tennant co-owned Wells Media Group LLC, a video production and media training company. She made an unsuccessful bid for governor in the 2011 special election, coming in third in the Democratic primary, with 17.3 percent of the vote.[2]


Tennant was born and raised on a farm in Fairview, West Virginia, to John and Rose Mary Tennant. She is the youngest of seven siblings. Both of her parents and four of her siblings are teachers. Tennant initially studied education at West Virginia University prior to changing her major to journalism. In 1990, she was selected as the first, and to date only, woman to represent WVU as the Mountaineer Mascot.

After graduation, Tennant started her broadcast career working as a television anchor and reporter at WBOY-TV in Clarksburg and WCHS-TV in Charleston. Prior to taking office in January 2009, she and her husband co-owned Wells Media Group LLC, a business that specialized in media training and video production. She also serves on the board of directors for the American Heart Association and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.[6]


  • Bachelor's degree, journalism, West Virginia University
  • Master's degree, corporate & organizational communication, West Virginia University

Political career

West Virginia Secretary of State (2009-Present)

Tennant first ran for the office of West Virginia Secretary of State in 2004, losing in the Democratic primary election to Ken Hechler by 1,108 votes. She ran again in 2008 and beat out then-Democratic House of Delegates Majority Leader Joe DeLong and then-West Virginia State Senator Billy Bailey for the Democratic nomination.

In July 2009, the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R), appointed Tennant and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) as co-chairs of the Standing Committee on Voter Participation. The responsibilities of the organization included: “reviewing NASS partnerships with voter outreach groups and improving communication between states regarding voting practices.”[7]

On Thursday, January 18, 2011, Tennant announced her candidacy in the special election contest for governor.[8] Tennant lost the May 14, 2011 primary, finishing third.

Internet voting

Tennant's husband, Erik Wells, a Democratic state senator and a U.S. Navy Reserve lieutenant commander, encountered difficulty trying to vote while deployed in Afghanistan. This incident, as well as issues with West Virginia's outdated voting system, caused Tennant to initiate upgrades designed to make office operations more time and cost efficient. Tennant initiated a pilot online program in 2010 that allowed 179 deployed West Virginian servicemen to vote "as easily as if they were shopping on Amazon."[9] The problem with electronic voting went beyond violating a voter's constitutional right to discretion, however. While touring the country on behalf of the internet-voting cause, Tennant was faced with a bigger problem publicized by graduate students at the University of Michigan. They argued that the online voting system was too vulnerable to getting hacked.

In 2012, the Secretary of State’s office issued a Republican primary ballot, which told voters to select 18 at-large delegates to the Republican National Convention when 19 were to be chosen. The error cost West Virginia $148,705 to reprint the ballots and another $64,000 to reprogram the digital voting machines.[10][11]

Byrd Senate seat

In the wake of the death of Robert C. Byrd, long-time Democratic member of the United States Senate and controversial political figure, both on and off Capitol Hill, the fate of his vacant seat had been left in limbo for over a week. Byrd, who had for a number of years been in frail health, passed away in the early morning hours of Monday, June 28, 2010.[12] At the time of his death, the late-senator had about thirty months left in his term, which expired on January 3, 2013. Under state law, Governor Joe Manchin was given the authority to name an "interim successor until an election can be held." Had Byrd died after Saturday, July 3, 2010, he would have been able to appoint someone to serve the entire balance of the unexpired term.[13]

But even in this regard, there were issues of concern among political scholars, such as when a vacancy could actually be declared. The biggest area of contention, however, was over when a special election could be called.[14] According to the West Virginia Code of Appointments §3-10-4, "If the unexpired term of any office is for a longer period than [30 months], the appointment is until a successor to the office has timely filed a certificate of candidacy, has been nominated at the primary election next following such timely filing and has thereafter been elected and qualified to fill the unexpired term.”[15] The state held its primary in May for the 2010 election cycle and did not hold another for two years.

Later, on the same day as Byrd's death, Secretary of State Tennant argued that "state election law does not allow the state to hold an election to fill Byrd's seat until Election Day on Nov. 6, 2012," though it does authorize the governor to appoint a successor until that time.[16][17] After a firestorm of protests, she suggested that if the governor wanted to hold the election prior to 2012, then he would have to call for a special session of the state legislature to correct the issue.[18]


Secretary of State Project
See also: Secretary of State Project

The Center for Public Integrity reported in September 2008 that Tennant received both the endorsement and financial assistance (nearly $1,000) from the Secretary of State Project, a below-the-radar 527 political organization whose purpose is "wrestling control of the country from the Republican Party" through the process of "removing their political operatives from deciding who can vote and whose votes will count," namely the office of Secretary of State in many cases.[19][20]

Change-of-address materials

In 2013, the Secretary of State’s office was late sending out change-of-address materials to election officials, which are sent out every two years to keep election rolls accurate. According to the Harrison County Clerk's office, the materials should have arrived at the end of 2013 to give officials time to send them out before the primary election in May 2014, but some county clerks did not receive the materials until April 2014 or later.[21]

Campaign finance reports

In 2014, a number of West Virginian political candidates were unable to file their campaign finance reports on the Secretary of State’s website due to issues with the online campaign finance reporting system. Tennant said "The company that was hired to update the campaign finance reporting system has not met the standards of my office, has not met the standards of the contract or what West Virginians deserve...They are being held accountable."[22]



See also: United States Senate elections in West Virginia, 2014

Tennant ran in the 2014 election for the U.S. Senate, representing West Virginia. Tennant won the Democratic nomination in the primary on May 13, 2014.[5] She defeated Dennis Melton and David Wamsley.[23] Natalie Tennant lost the general election on November 4, 2014.

According to Politico and the New York Times, Tennant sought to distance herself from President Obama. Tennant was an Obama delegate at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.[24][25]

Election results

General election
U.S. Senate, West Virginia General Election, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngShelley Moore Capito 62.1% 280,400
     Democratic Natalie Tennant 34.5% 155,730
     Libertarian John Buckley 1.6% 7,344
     Constitution Phil Hudok 0.6% 2,543
     Mountain Bob Henry Baber 1.2% 5,481
Total Votes 451,498
Source: West Virginia Secretary of State
Democratic primary results
U.S. Senate, West Virginia Democratic Primary, 2014
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngNatalie Tennant 77.9% 104,598
Dennis Melton 11.8% 15,817
David Wamsley 10.3% 13,773
Total Votes 134,188
Source: West Virginia Secretary of State


Tennant was endorsed by the following:


"Natalie Tennant for Senate," September 2013

Natalie Tennant for Senate's July 2014 ad, "Natalie for West Virginia."

Natalie Tennant for Senate's July 2014 ad, "'Message' - Tennant Stands Up for Coal Jobs."
  • In a 2013 ad, Tennant criticized her opponent, Shelley Moore Capito, for voting against a mine safety act, a policy supported by other West Virginia delegates. Capito expressed displeasure with Tennant's comments, saying, "I was obviously a little surprised at the vindictive nature she came right out of the box against me. I’ve got a lot going on here and I’ve been doing this a long time. So I’m going to stick with my strategy. I always take the high road."[30]

Natalie Tennant for Senate's August 2014 ad, "Independent Leadership."

Natalie Tennant for Senate's September 2014 ad, "Delaney's Story."

Natalie Tennant for Senate's September 2014 ad, "Insiders."

Natalie Tennant for Senate's October 2014 ad, "A Promise Made."


Capito v. Tennant
Poll Shelley Moore Capito (R) Natalie Tennant (D)UndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Rasmussen Reports
September 30-October 1, 2014
The West Virginia Poll
August 15-23, 2014
The West Virginia Poll
May 26, 2014
DMF Research
April 22-27, 2014
Rasmussen Reports
February 19-20, 2014
EMILY's List
January 29-30, 2014
Harper Polling
September 24-25, 2013
Public Policy Polling
September 19-22, 2013
AVERAGES 49.25% 36.75% 13.38% +/-4.08 741
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to


See also: West Virginia secretary of state election, 2012

Tennant defended her seat in the 2012 election. She ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and defeated Republican challenger Brian Savilla in the general election on November 6, 2012.[31] Savilla is a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

West Virginia Secretary of State General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngNatalie Tennant Incumbent 62.4% 339,235
     Republican Brian Savilla 37.6% 204,440
Total Votes 543,675
Election Results West Virginia Secretary of State Election Results Center.


See also: West Virginia special gubernatorial election, 2011 and West Virginia state executive official elections, 2011

West Virginia was not scheduled to hold a gubernatorial election until 2012; however, elected Democrat Joe Manchin gave up the seat to join the U.S. Senate in the 2010 midterms. Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, also a Democrat, took over the office as the Lieutenant Governor of West Virginia is a title accorded to the legislator elected as Senate President, and is next in succession to the office of governor.

Disputed election date

In early 2011, a Supreme Court battle ensued about when to elect the next Governor of West Virginia.

Citizen Action Group and local attorney Thorton Cooper said the state Constitution and state code disagree, and argued that a special election for governor should be held. Attorneys for acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Richard Thompson disagreed on whether an election should be called. Secretary of State Tennant‘s legal counsel took a neutral position.

Kathryn Bayless, counsel for CAG, said only the court could require the Legislature and Tomblin to act and that an election was needed as soon as possible. Bayless argued that article 7 section 16 of the Constitution is clear, and that there “shall” be a “new” election for governor in event of an absence.

“The people of West Virginia want a new election, and that is what the Constitution provides for,” Bayless said.

“What would you have us do in respect to President Tomblin and the Speaker,” asked Justice Brent Benjamin. “What would you have us mandate those two individuals do? You have us mandate those two individuals to legislate?”

“No sir, I would mandate a new election be conducted as soon as practical, and I believe the court has the authority to do that,” Bayless said.[32]



Speaking about her 2011 gubernatorial platform, Tennant endorsed using severance taxes from the Marcellus Shale for technology and education, and she also expressed a willingness to enact more regulations and environmental guidelines surrounding the shale.[33]

Gubernatorial Democratic Primary election
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party ApprovedaEarl Ray Tomblin 40.37%
     Democratic Party Jeffrey Kessler 5.30%
     Democratic Party Arnie Moltis 0.38%
     Democratic Party John D. Perdue 12.54%
     Democratic Party Natalie Tennant 17.30%
     Democratic Party Richard Thompson 24.11%
Total Votes 126,888


2008 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary[34]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Natalie Tennant 51.4%
     Democratic Party Joe DeLong 35.8%
     Democratic Party Billy Wayne Bailey 12.8%
Total Votes 335,624

On November 4, 2008, Natalie Tennant won election to the office of West Virginia Secretary of State. She defeated Charles Theophilus Minimah (R) in the general election.

West Virginia Secretary of State, 2008
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngNatalie Tennant 65.5% 437,430
     Republican Charles Theophilus Minimah 34.5% 230,283
Total Votes 667,713
Election Results Via: West Virginia Secretary of State


In 2004, Tennant ran unsuccessfully for West Virginia Secretary of State, losing the Democratic primary to Ken Hechler by 1,108 votes.[35]

2004 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary[36]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Ken Hechler 25.7%
     Democratic Party Natalie Tennant 25.3%
     Democratic Party Mike Oliverio 20.2%
     Democratic Party Roger Pritt 15.7%
     Democratic Party Larrie Bailey 6.8%
     Democratic Party Donna J. Acord 3.6%
     Democratic Party George Daugherty 2.7%
Total Votes 260,580

Campaign contributions

Comprehensive donor information for Tennant is available dating back to 2004. Based on available campaign finance records, Tennant raised a total of $624,940 during that time period. This information was last updated on May 7, 2013.[37]

Natalie Tennant's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 WV Secretary of State Won $37,915
2011 West Virginia Governor Defeated $408,361
2010 WV Secretary of State Not up for election $0
2008 WV Secretary of State Won $139,291
2004 WV Secretary of State Defeated $39,373
Grand Total Raised $624,940


Candidates for Congress were required to file up to seven main reports with the Federal Election Commission during the 2014 elections season. Below are Tennant's reports.[38]

Natalie Tennant (2014) Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
October Quarterly[39]October 15, 2013$0.00$153,421.00$(2,354.80)$151,066.20
Year-End[40]March 24, 2014$151,066.20$646,776.52$(194,026.46)$603,816.26
April Quarterly[41]April 15, 2014$603,816.26$794,334.11$(307,712.53)$1,090,437.84
Pre-Primary[42]May 1, 2014$1,090,437.84$152,185.49$(91,159.24)$1,151,464.09
July Quarterly[43]July 14, 2014$1,151,464.09$624,616.23$(259,672.51)$1,516,407.81
October Quarterly[44]October 15, 2014$1,516,407.81$940,895.94$(1,324,886.33)$1,132,417.42
Running totals

Emily's List

Tennant's largest donor during the 2014 campaign cycle has been EMILY's List, a political action committee that aims to help elect pro-abortion Democratic female candidates to office.[45][46]


Tennant won re-election to the position of West Virginia Secretary of State in 2012. During that election cycle, Tennant raised a total of $37,915.


Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Natalie Tennant's donors each year.[47] Click [show] for more information.


Tennant is married to former news anchor and current state senator for the 8th District, Erik Wells. They have one child together.

Contact information

West Virginia

Capitol Address:
Secretary of State
Building 1, Suite 157-K
1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25305-0770

Phone: (304) 558-6000
Toll Free Phone: (866) 767-8683
Fax: (304) 558-0900

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See also

External links

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  1. West Virginia Secretary of State, "Biography," accessed April 29, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 West Virginia Secretary of State, "Election results center," accessed April 29, 2013
  3. The Register Herald, "Natalie Tennant - Secretary of state promotes women's role in W.Va.," March 17, 2013
  4. The Hill, "W.Va. Senate race gets interesting," accessed September 16, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 Associated Press, "West Virginia - Summary Vote Results," May 13, 2014
  6., "Meet Natalie," accessed May 7, 2014
  7. WOWK Channel 13, "Secretary of State Natalie Tennant Appointed Co-Chair of National Committee," July 21, 2009
  8. WVNS-TV, "Tennant Announces Candidacy for Governor," January 18, 2010 (dead link)
  9., "Internet Voting: Will Democracy or Hackers Win?," February 16, 2012
  10. "News and Sentinel", "West Virginia to pay for ballot mistake," 5/23/12
  11. "Small Town News", "Secretary Of States Office To Pay More Than $200K For Ballot Blunder," 5/24/12
  12. Yahoo! News, "West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd dead at 92," June 28, 2010 (dead link)
  13. Politico, "West Virginia law murky on Robert Byrd succession," June 29, 2010
  14. West Virginia Watchdog, "Effort to Appoint Byrd Replacement Turning Into Game of Clue," June 28, 2010
  15. West Virginia Secretary of State, "West Virginia Code of Appointments" (dead link)
  16. Washington Post, "Byrd special election to be held in 2012," June 28, 2010
  17. The Charleston Gazette, "McGraw ready to give opinion on Byrd successor -- if asked," July 5, 2010
  18. Boston Herald, "Natalie Tennant seeks to clarify W.Va.’s succession law," July 3, 2010
  19. Center for Public Integrity: Paper Trial Blog, "Election '08: Scoring Secretary of State Seats for Dems," September 8, 2008
  20. American Spectator, "SOS in Minnesota," November 8, 2008
  21. "Exponent Telegram", "Pre-election blame game," accessed July 13, 2014
  22. "Charleston Daily Mail", "Tennant: Vendor to blame for website issues," April 29, 2014
  23. The Hill, "W.Va. Senate race gets interesting," accessed September 16, 2013
  24. New York Times, "West Virginia Democrats Face an Uneasy Time," December 28, 2013
  25. Politico, "West Virginia Senate race 2014: Natalie Tennant seeks distance from Obama, coal policy," September 17, 2013
  26. U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, "US Women's Chamber Endorses Natalie Tennant for U.S. Senate as the Clear Choice for Women's Economic Priorities," accessed September 19, 2014
  27. Charleston Daily Mail, "Michelle Obama backs Natalie Tennant in US Senate race," November 22, 2013
  28. 28.0 28.1 Charleston Daily Mail, "US Sen. Elizabeth Warren backs Natalie Tennant campaign," June 23, 2014
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 29.5 29.6 ', "Meet Natalie," accessed October 21, 2014
  30. Politico, "Shelley Moore Capito: Natalie Tennant roll-out ‘vindictive’," accessed September 23, 2013
  31. West Virginia Secretary of State, "Election Results," accessed November 6, 2012
  32. "W.Va. Supreme Court Hears Arguments for Gubernatorial Special Election", West Virginia Watchdog, January 12, 2011
  33. 'The Register-Herald, "Gubernatorial candidate profiles: Democrat Natalie Tennant," April 25, 2011 (dead link)
  34. West Virginia Secretary of State, "2008 Democratic Primary Election Results"
  35. "Register-Herald," "Secretary of state promotes women's role in W.Va.," March 17, 2013
  36. West Virginia Secretary of State, "2004 Democratic Primary Election Results" (dead link)
  37., "Career fundraising for Natalie Tennant," accessed May 7, 2013
  38. Federal Election Commission, "Tennant 2014 Summary reports," accessed November 26, 2013
  39. Federal Election Commission, "October Quarterly", accessed November 26, 2013
  40. Federal Election Commission, "Year-End," accessed May 7, 2014
  41. Federal Election Commission, "April Quarterly," accessed May 7, 2014
  42. Federal Election Commission, "Pre-Primary," accessed June 19, 2014
  43. Federal Election Commission, "July Quarterly," accessed July 31, 2014
  44. Federal Election Commission, "October Quarterly," accessed October 22, 2014
  45. Washington Free Beacon, "Democrat Natalie Tennant Received Thousands from Liberal Megadonors," May 20, 2014
  46. Roll Call," "EMILY’s List Endorses West Virginia Senate Candidate," September 26, 2013
  47. Follow the, "Home," accessed February 17, 2015
Political offices
Preceded by
Betty Ireland (R)
West Virginia Secretary of State
2009 - present
Succeeded by