Nathan was a charter member of the national Libertarian Party, which was founded in 1971, inspired largely by the philosophical vision of Ayn Rand. At the first Libertarian Party presidential nominating convention in 1972, she was selected to run for vice president with Libertarian presidential candidate John Hospers.
Republican Virginia elector Roger L. MacBride, who later switched his affiliation to the Libertarian Party and became the party’s 1976 Libertarian presidential nominee, chose to vote for Hospers and Nathan rather than Nixon and Agnew, making Nathan the first woman in U.S. history to receive an electoral vote in the Electoral College — ahead of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. She was also the first Jewish person in America to receive an electoral vote and to gain a nomination to run as vice president.
Nathan was a TV and radio broadcast journalist. Starting in 1971, she produced and occasionally hosted a daily talk show for KVAL-TV (CBS affiliate) in Eugene, Ore.
Following her vice-presidential run, she ran for office as a Libertarian candidate during the 1970s through the 1990s for federal and state offices. In the 1980 U.S. Senate election in Oregon, Nathan participated in three statewide television debates with then–Sen. Bob Packwood and then–state Sen. Ted Kulongoski. She received 43,686 votes.
In 1990, Nathan ran as a Libertarian candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives for Oregon’s 4th congressional district. She was the lone challenger to incumbent congressman Peter DeFazio, and received 26,432 votes for 14 percent of the vote.
Nathan earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. She operated her own insurance agency, a music publishing firm, and a decorating service in the Los Angeles area of California before moving to Eugene, Ore.
Nathan married Charles “Chuck” Nathan, an ASCAP composer who wrote top-10 hit songs in the 1950s. The couple had three sons, Paul, Larry, and Greg Nathan.
Nathan is a former vice chair of the Libertarian Party, as well as a founding member and former president of the Association of Libertarian Feminists. She was a speaker at the 2012 Libertarian National Convention, where she announced Gary Johnson as the 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee.
“It is with sadness we learn the news of the passing of our friend Tonie Nathan, a great and history-making Libertarian,” said Geoffrey J. Neale, chair of the Libertarian National Committee. “We celebrate her life and her accomplishments.”