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 6, 2012
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, WV
Office website
Personal website
Campaign website
Natalie Tennant (b. December 25, 1967 in Fairview, West Virginia) 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] She first ran for the office in 2004, losing by 1,108 votes.[2]

She announced in September 2013, that she ran for election to the U.S. Senate representing West Virginia in 2014.[3]

Tennant won re-election on November 6, 2012, easily defeating Republican state Rep. Brian Savilla by a margin of 62.4 percent to 37.6 percent.[4]

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.[4]


Natalie Tennant was born and raised on a farm in Fairview, West Virginia, 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, 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

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 1,118 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.”[5]

On Thursday, January 18, 2011, Tennant announced her candidacy in the special election contest for governor in 2011.[6] Tennant lost the May 14, 2011 primary, placing 3rd.

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."[7] 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: The online voting system is too vulnerable to getting hacked.

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.”[11] 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.[12][13] 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.[14]


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 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.[15][16]



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

Tennant Senate ad, September 2013

Tennant ran in the 2014 election for the U.S. Senate, representing West Virginia. Tennant sought the Democratic nomination in the primary. The general election took place November 4, 2014.[17]

Attack ad

Tennant mentioned her opponent, Shelley Moore Capito, in her Senate ad. Tennant criticized 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."[18]


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.[19] 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 West Virginia does not have a lieutenant 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 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.[20]



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.[21]

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[22]
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


2004 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary[23]
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.[24]

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.[25]

Natalie Tennant (2014) Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
October Quarterly[26]October 15, 2013$0.00$153,421.00$(2,354.80)$151,066.20
Year-End[27]March 24, 2014$151,066.20$646,776.52$(194,026.46)$603,816.26
April Quarterly[28]April 15, 2014$603,816.26$794,334.11$(307,712.53)$1,090,437.84
Pre-Primary[29]May 1, 2014$1,090,437.84$152,185.49$(91,159.24)$1,151,464.09
July Quarterly[30]July 14, 2014$1,151,464.09$624,616.23$(259,672.51)$1,516,407.81
October Quarterly[31]October 15, 2014$1,516,407.81$940,895.94$(1,324,886.33)$1,132,417.42
Running totals


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.[32] 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

Recent News

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See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. West Virginia Secretary of State, "Biography," accessed April 29, 2013
  2. The Register Herald, "Natalie Tennant - Secretary of state promotes women's role in W.Va.," March 17, 2013
  3. The Hill, "W.Va. Senate race gets interesting," accessed September 16, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 West Virginia Secretary of State, " Election results center," accessed April 29, 2013
  5. WOWK Channel 13 "Secretary of State Natalie Tennant Appointed Co-Chair of National Committee" 21 July 2009
  6. WVNS-TV Tennant Announces Candidacy for Governor" 18 Jan. 2010
  7., "Internet Voting: Will Democracy or Hackers Win?," February 16, 2012
  8. Yahoo! News "West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd dead at 92" 28 June, 2010
  9. Politico, "West Virginia law murky on Robert Byrd succession" 29 June, 2010
  10. West Virginia Watchdog "Effort to Appoint Byrd Replacement Turning Into Game of Clue" 28 June, 2010
  11. West Virginia Secretary of State - West Virginia Code of Appointments
  12. Washington Post, "Byrd special election to be held in 2012" 28 June, 2010
  13. The Charleston Gazette "McGraw ready to give opinion on Byrd successor -- if asked" 5 July, 2010
  14. Boston Herald "Natalie Tennant seeks to clarify W.Va.’s succession law" 3 July, 2010
  15. Center for Public Integrity: Paper Trial Blog "Election '08: Scoring Secretary of State Seats for Dems" 8 Sept. 2008
  16. American Spectator "SOS in Minnesota" 7 Nov. 2008
  17. The Hill, "W.Va. Senate race gets interesting," accessed September 16, 2013
  18. Politico, "Shelley Moore Capito: Natalie Tennant roll-out ‘vindictive’," accessed September 23, 2013
  19. West Virginia Secretary of State "Election Results" Accessed November 6, 2012
  20. "W.Va. Supreme Court Hears Arguments for Gubernatorial Special Election," West Virginia Watchdog, January 12, 2011
  21. 'The Register-Herald, "Gubernatorial candidate profiles: Democrat Natalie Tennant," April 25, 2011
  22. West Virginia Secretary of State - 2008 Democratic Primary Election Results
  23. West Virginia Secretary of State - 2004 Democratic Primary Election Results
  24. Follow the Money, " Career fundraising for Natalie Tennant," accessed May 7, 2013
  25. Federal Election Commission, "Tennant 2014 Summary reports," accessed November 26, 2013
  26. Federal Election Commission, "October Quarterly", accessed November 26, 2013
  27. Federal Election Commission, "Year-End," accessed May 7, 2014
  28. Federal Election Commission, "April Quarterly," accessed May 7, 2014
  29. Federal Election Commission, "Pre-Primary," accessed June 19, 2014
  30. Federal Election Commission, "July Quarterly," accessed July 31, 2014
  31. Federal Election Commission, "October Quarterly," accessed October 22, 2014
  32. Follow the, "Home," accessed February 17, 2015
Political offices
Preceded by
Betty Ireland (R)
West Virginia Secretary of State
2009 - present
Succeeded by