Natalie Tennant

Natalie Tennant
29th Secretary of State of West Virginia
Assumed office
January 19, 2009
Governor Joe Manchin
Earl Ray Tomblin
Preceded by Betty Ireland
Succeeded by Mac Warner (Elect)
Personal details
Born (1967-12-25) December 25, 1967
Fairmont, West Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Erik Wells
Children 1
Alma mater West Virginia University,
(BS, MA)
Website Government website

Natalie E. Tennant (born December 25, 1967)[1] is the Secretary of State of West Virginia.[2] She was elected in 2008 and officially took office on January 19, 2009. She is a member of the Democratic Party. Tennant was the 2014 Democratic Party nominee for West Virginia's open U.S. Senate seat, she lost to Republican Shelley Moore Capito. In 2016 she was defeated for re-election and will leave office on January 16, 2017.

Prior to her election as Secretary of State, Tennant was a television reporter and co-owner of a video production company.

Early life and education

Tennant grew up on a farm in Fairview, Marion County, West Virginia and is the daughter of Rose Mary (née Brunetti) and John D. Tennant, Jr.[3] Her mother was of Italian descent.[4] Tennant is a 1986 graduate of North Marion High School in Farmington, West Virginia.

She graduated from West Virginia University in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and she obtained a master’s degree in corporate and organizational communication from WVU in 2002.[5] While at WVU, Tennant was selected in 1990 as the first woman to represent the university as the Mountaineers' mascot.[6] The only other woman to serve as the Mountaineer was Rebecca Durst, who was selected in 2009.[5] Tennant was subjected to harassment for being a female Mountaineer. At the selection ceremony where Tennant was named as the new mascot, some of the crowd booed her appointment.[7] Cups were thrown at her, people spit on her, and fans developed chants, suggesting that Tennant needed to "get in the kitchen" and characterizing her as a "mountain deer."[7][8]

Following completion of her undergraduate degree in 1991, Tennant began her career in television broadcasting and reporting.[7] Tennant remained active in the WVU community, receiving the WVU Alumni Association's Margaret Buchanan Cole Young Alumni Award in 1997.[5]

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.[9]

In 2008, Tennant was elected secretary of state, beating out Republican candidate Charles Minimah with 65% of the vote.[10]


Tennant took office as the Secretary of State of West Virginia on January 19, 2009.[11]

In 2010, Tennant initiated a pilot online voting program that allowed 179 deployed West Virginian service members to vote via the Internet.[12]

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.[13] The error cost West Virginia $148,705 to reprint the ballots and another $64,000 to reprogram the digital voting machines.[13][14]

Tennant, along with U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, led the investigation of the Lincoln County 2010 Democratic primary, in which a large number of absentee ballots were cast in favor of a certain faction of the Democratic party. In early 2012, as a result of the investigation, Lincoln County Sheriff Jerry Bowman and Lincoln County Clerk Donald Whitten pleaded guilty to felony charges.[15] Bowman, Whitten, and Tennant were all elected Democratic officials.[15]

In 2013, Tennant returned $3 million in unused revenue to the state legislature after Tennant's department enacted cost-saving measures and settled two lawsuits for significantly less money than expected.[16]

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.[17]

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."[18]

On January 7, 2016, the Secretary of State's office opened a second location in Fairmont.[19]


Tennant has received campaign funding from the Secretary of State Project, a 527 political action committee that supports progressive candidates for secretary of state positions in swing states.[20][21][22]

Gubernatorial campaign

On January 20, 2011, Tennant announced she was running for the Democratic nomination for Governor of West Virginia in the 2011 special gubernatorial election.[23] Tennant focused her campaign on openness and accountability, which she said had been a hallmark of her tenure as Secretary of State.[24]

Public polling conducted in January 2011 showed Tennant to be a front runner in the Democratic primary, alongside acting governor Earl Ray Tomblin.[25] She lost the primary election to acting governor Earl Ray Tomblin, coming in third place behind state house speaker Rick Thompson.[26]

U.S. Senate campaign

Tennant ran for the Senate in 2014. The seat was open after incumbent Democrat Jay Rockefeller announced his retirement. Tennant lost to Republican Representative Shelley Moore Capito in the general election, losing every county in the state. The 34.5 percent won by Tennant was the lowest ever by a Democratic nominee across the 38 U.S. Senate races in West Virginia history.[27]

Tennant did not face any significant primary opposition.[28][29] She entered the race after ten prominent Democrats declined to run.[30] In announcing her campaign, Tennant stated, "I will fight any Republican or any Democrat — including President Barack Obama — who tries to kill our energy jobs, whether they are coal, natural gas, wind or water.”[31][32] Tennant was endorsed by Senator Rockefeller, Senator Joe Manchin, and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.[32] She was also endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama,[33] North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp,[34] and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who hosted a fundraiser for Tennant.[34]

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.[30][31]

Personal life

Prior to Tennant's election as Secretary of State, she was co-owner of Wells Media Group, a Charleston-based video production and media training company she operated with her husband, Democratic State Senator Erik Wells. Tennant and Wells have one daughter, Delaney, and reside in Charleston.[1]

Electoral history

West Virginia Secretary of State Democratic Primary Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ken Hechler 67,065 25.74
Democratic Natalie Tennant 65,947 25.31
Democratic Mike Oliverio 52,720 20.23
Democratic Roger Pritt 40,823 15.67
Democratic Larrie Bailey 17,590 6.75
Democratic Donna Acord 9,296 3.57
Democratic George Daugherty 7,139 2.74
West Virginia Secretary of State Democratic Primary Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Natalie Tennant 172,458 51.38
Democratic Joe DeLong 120,264 35.83
Democratic Billy Wayne Bailey, Jr. 42,902 12.78
West Virginia Secretary of State Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Natalie Tennant 437,430 65.51
Republican Charles Theophilus Minimah 230,283 34.49
West Virginia Governor Special Democratic Primary Election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Earl Ray Tomblin 51,348 40.40
Democratic Rick Thompson 30,631 24.10
Democratic Natalie Tennant 22,106 17.39
Democratic John Perdue 15,995 12.58
Democratic Jeffrey Kessler 6,550 5.15
Democratic Arne Moltis 481 0.38
West Virginia Secretary of State Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Natalie Tennant (inc.) 398,463 62.40
Republican Brian Savilla 240,080 37.60
West Virginia U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Natalie Tennant 104,598 77.95
Democratic Dennis Melton 15,817 11.79
Democratic David Wamsley 13,773 10.26
West Virginia U.S. Senate Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Shelley Moore Capito 281,820 62.12
Democratic Natalie Tennant 156,360 34.47
Libertarian John Buckley 7,409 1.63
Mountain Bob Henry Baber 5,504 1.21
Constitution Phil Hudok 2,566 0.57
West Virginia Secretary of State Democratic Primary Election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Natalie Tennant (inc.) 192,176 77.18
Democratic Patsy Trecost 56,832 22.82


  1. 1 2 "Natalie Tennant". The West Virginia Encyclopedia. December 8, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2010.
  2. "West Virginia Secretary of State's office". Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  3. "Obituaries: Rose Mary Brunetti Tennant". The Times West Virginian. June 4, 2011. Retrieved 2014-07-09.
  4. "Natalie Tennant for U.S. Senate (WV)". IADLC. Retrieved 2014-07-09.
  5. 1 2 3 News, University Relations |. "Second woman to don the buckskins as WVU Mountaineer mascot". WVUToday. Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  6. "WVU Mountaineers". WVU Alumni. 1 December 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  7. 1 2 3 "The Year of the Mountaineer". Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  8. "25th Anniversary of the first female WVU Mountaineer: Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant". Huntington News. Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  9. Holdren, Wendy (2013-03-17). "Secretary of state promotes women's role in W.Va.". Register-Herald. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  10. "Statewide Results". General Election - November 4, 2008. West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  11. King, Joselyn (6-11-2013). "Tennant Undecided on Senate". News-Register. Retrieved 24 May 2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. "Internet Voting: Will Democracy or Hackers Win?". PBS. 2012-2-16. Retrieved 24 May 2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. 1 2 Brust, Pamela (May 23, 2012). "West Virginia to pay for ballot mistake". Parkersburg News and Sentinel. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  14. Miller, Dendra (May 24, 2012). "Secretary Of States Office To Pay More Than $200K For Ballot Blunder". The Glenville Democrat. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  15. 1 2 "Lincoln County officials admit to stuffing ballot box". Charleston Daily Mail. 2012-01-30. Retrieved 2014-07-09.
  16. Eyre, Eric (12 September 2013). "Secretary of State's Office returns $3M to W.Va.'s coffers". The Charleston Gazette. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  17. Davis, Jim (May 4, 2014). "Pre-Election Blame Game". The Exponent Telegram. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  18. Boucher, David (2014-04-29). "Tennant: Vendor to blame for website issues". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  19. Murray, Melissa. "West Virginia Secretary of State Opens Office in Fairmont". Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  20. Laskow, Sarah (11-6-2008). "Democrats dominate secretary of state races in toss-up states". Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved 24 May 2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  21. Neubauer, Chuck (2011-06-23). "Soros and liberal groups seeking top election posts in battleground states". Washington Times. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  22. Wiser, Daniel (2014-05-20). "Democrat Natalie Tennant Received Thousands from Liberal Megadonors". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  23. Fritz, Doug (January 20, 2011). "Tennant Announces Candidacy for Governor". WVNS-TV. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  24. "Associated Press Reports on WV Gubernatorial Special Election". Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  25. "Public Policy Polling - W.Va. Governor's Race". Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  26. Lavender, Paige (2013-09-13). "Natalie Tennant Senate Run: West Virginia Secretary Of State Preparing Campaign". Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  27. Ostermeier, Eric (November 10, 2014). "Rock Bottom: Democrats Hit Multiple Low Water Marks in US Senate Elections". Smart Politics.
  28. Kercheval, Hoppy (13 September 2013). "Tennant to run for U.S. Senate". Metro News. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  29. Kercheval, Hoppy (22 August 2013). "Natalie Tennant said to be considering Senate run". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  30. 1 2 Gabriel, Trip (2013-12-28). "West Virginia Democrats Face an Uneasy Time". New York Times. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  31. 1 2 Hohmann, James (17 September 2013). "West Virginia Senate race 2014: Natalie Tennant seeks distance from Obama, coal policy". Politico. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  32. 1 2 Nyden, Paul J. (17 September 2013). "Tennant announces run for Senate". The Charleston Gazette. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  33. Boucher, Dave (November 19, 2013). "Michelle Obama backs Natalie Tennant in US Senate race". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  34. 1 2 Mattise, Jonathan (June 23, 2014). "Sen. Elizabeth Warren to campaign for Tennant in W.V". The Charleston Gazette. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
Political offices
Preceded by
Betty Ireland
Secretary of State of West Virginia
Succeeded by
Mac Warner
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jay Rockefeller
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from West Virginia
(Class 2)

Most recent
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