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 5
Base salary$95,000
Elections and appointments
First electedNovember 4, 2008
Next general2012
Term limitsN/A
High schoolNorth Marion High School
Bachelor'sWest Virginia University
Master'sWest Virginia University
BirthdayDecember 25, 1967
Place of birthFairview, WV
Office website
Personal website
Campaign website
Natalie Tennant is the current Democratic West Virginia Secretary of State. She was first elected to the statewide position in 2008.

Tennant has filed for reelection to her current post as secretary of state in the 2012 election.


Natalie Tennant was born and raised on a farm in Fairview, West Virginia (Marion County) to John and Rose Mary Tennant, the youngest of seven siblings. Both her parents and four of her brothers and sisters are teachers, so it was only natural that when she started her collegial career at West Virginia University pursuing a major in education. Over time, however, Tennant came to the realization that she had a deep passion for telling stories, especially positive ones about the people and places of West Virginia, which led her to alter her major to journalism. In 1990, she was selected as the first - and to date only - female to represent the University as the Mountaineer Mascot.

After graduation, Natalie Tennant started her broadcast career working as a television anchor and reporter at WBOY-TV in Clarksburg and WCHS-TV in Charleston. Prior to her taking office in January 2009, both 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 the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.


  • Bachelor's degree, Journalism, West Virginia University
  • Master's degree, Corporate & organizational communication, West Virginia University

Political career

Tennant first ran for the office of West Virginia Secretary of State in 2004, losing in the Democratic primary election to Ken Hechler by 1,118 votes. She ran again in 2008, this time beating 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 include “reviewing NASS partnerships with voter outreach groups and improving communication between states regarding voting practices.” [1]

On Thursday, January 18, 2011, Tennant announced her candidacy in the special election contest for governor in 2011. [2] Tennant lost the May 14, 2011 primary, placing 3rd.

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. [3] At the time of his death, the late-senator had about thirty months left in his term, which was set to expire on January 3, 2013. Under state law, Governor Joe Manchin is 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 have appointed someone to serve the entire balance of the unexpired term. [4]

But even in this regard, there are issues of concern among political scholars, such as when a vacancy can actually be declared. The biggest area of contention, however, is over when a special election can be called. [5] 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.” [6] The state held its primary in May for the 2010 election cycle and won't 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. [7] [8] 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. [9]

Supreme Court

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 say the state Constitution and state code disagree, and a special election for governor should be called quickly. Attorneys for Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Richard Thompson disagree 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 is needed as soon as possible. Bayless argued that article 7 section 16 of the Constitution is clear 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.[10]



Speaking about her 2011 gubernatorial platform, Tennant endorsed using severance taxes from the Marcellus Shale for technology and education, and also expressed a willingness to enact more regulations and environmental guidelines surrounding the shale.[11]

Internet voting

Tennant's husband, Erik Wells, a Democratic state senator and a U.S. Navy Reserve lieutenant commander, encountered such difficulty trying to vote while deployed in Afghanistan that he ultimately decided to fax his ballot to the U.S., thereby forfeiting his right to anonymity. This incident, as well as West Virginia's outdated, archiveless, paper-based system, spurred Tennant to initiate some upgrades designed to make office operations more time and cost efficient. One thing she did was run a pilot online program in 2010 that allowed 179 deployed West Virginian servicemen to vote "as easily as if they were shopping on Amazon."[12] The problem with electronic voting go 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: The online voting system is too vulnerable to getting hacked.


Secretary of State Project

See also: Secretary of State Project

The Center for Public Integrity reported in September 2008 that Natalie 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 to "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. [13] [14]


State executive officials
State legislatures


See also: West Virginia secretary of state election, 2012 Tennant will defend her seat in the 2012 election. She is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and will face Republican challenger Brian Savilla in the general election on November 6, 2012. Savilla is a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.


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 West Virginia does not have a lieutenant governor.

2011 Race for Governor - Democratic Primary
Candidates Percentage
Jeffrey V. Kessler 5.30%
Arnie Moltis 0.38%
John D. Perdue 12.54%
Natalie E. Tenant 17.30%
Richard "Rick" Thompson 24.11%
Green check mark.jpg Earl Ray Tomblin 40.37%
Total votes 126,888


2008 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary [15]
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
2008 Race for Secretary of State - General Election [16]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Natalie Tennant 65.0%
     Republican Party Charles Minimah 35.0%
Total Votes 667,885


2004 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary [17]
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

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.[18] Click [show] for more information.


She is married to former news anchor and current state senator for the 8th Congressional 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

See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. WOWK Channel 13 "Secretary of State Natalie Tennant Appointed Co-Chair of National Committee" 21 July 2009
  2. WVNS-TV Tennant Announces Candidacy for Governor" 18 Jan. 2010
  3. Yahoo! News "West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd dead at 92" 28 June, 2010
  4. Politico "West Virginia law murky on Robert Byrd succession" 29 June, 2010
  5. West Virginia Watchdog "Effort to Appoint Byrd Replacement Turning Into Game of Clue" 28 June, 2010
  6. West Virginia Secretary of State - West Virginia Code of Appointments
  7. Washington Post "Byrd special election to be held in 2012" 28 June, 2010
  8. The Charleston Gazette "McGraw ready to give opinion on Byrd successor -- if asked" 5 July, 2010
  9. Boston Herald "Natalie Tennant seeks to clarify W.Va.’s succession law" 3 July, 2010
  10. "W.Va. Supreme Court Hears Arguments for Gubernatorial Special Election," West Virginia Watchdog, January 12, 2011
  11. 'The Register-Herald, "Gubernatorial candidate profiles: Democrat Natalie Tennant", April 25, 2011
  12., "Internet Voting: Will Democracy or Hackers Win?", Febuary 16, 2012
  13. Center for Public Integrity: Paper Trial Blog "Election '08: Scoring Secretary of State Seats for Dems" 8 Sept. 2008
  14. American Spectator "SOS in Minnesota" 7 Nov. 2008
  15. West Virginia Secretary of State - 2008 Democratic Primary Election Results
  16. West Virginia Secretary of State - 2008 General Election Results
  17. West Virginia Secretary of State - 2004 Democratic Primary Election Results
  18. Follow the