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Minard beats White, Fragale in Senate race

by Troy Graham


(May 13) Conventional wisdom has always held that whoever carries Harrison County will win the nomination for state Senate in the 12th District.

That wisdom appeared to hold true Tuesday as former Sen. Joe Minard defeated incumbent Rebecca White and challenger Ron Fragale in Harrison and went on to win the Democratic nomination.

Minard defeated White by winning 41 percent of the vote to White's 20 percent.

Delegate Ron Fragale was close behind Minard with 38 percent of the votes, but had a poor showing in the other three counties of the district, where he was a political unknown.

Results from all four counties in the district were unofficial at press time, but Minard's lead appeared insurmountable.

Minard did not return a phone call to his home Tuesday night seeking comment.

Fragale only trailed Minard by 200 votes in Harrison County, but was soundly defeated in Lewis, Braxton and Gilmer, the other counties in the district.

"The margin in the other counties really hurt me," Fragale said. "A lot of name recognition went to (Minard)."

White gained some ground in the other counties, but trailed Minard by 1,300 votes in Harrison County.

White was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.

The race on the Republican ticket was too close to call at press time. David Hinkle and Joe Fidler, both of Harrison County, were running in a dead heat. Hinkle had 1,682 votes to Fidler's 1,604 votes in Harrison County.

Fidler performed well in the other counties, winning Lewis County by nearly 200 votes. With only four precincts to be counted in Braxton County, the former Vietnam fighter pilot held an unofficial 17 vote lead over Hinkle.

"I worked the people. I tried to meet as many folks as I could," Fidler said Tuesday night at the Harrison County Courthouse. "If I can get this nomination from the Republicans I feel like I have a good chance against any of (the Democrats)."

The Democratic primary was one of the most anticipated races in the state, with three highly popular and experienced candidates battling for the nomination.

White was a political unknown when she unseated Minard in 1994, claiming he was out of touch with the people. Minard spent 12 years in the House and the Senate before losing to White. Fragale had been a delegate for eight years, finishing first or second in each of his last three races.

None of the three political heavyweights emerged as the favorite during the campaign. Minard was vulnerable after losing to White in 1994. White received her share of political heat for blocking a vote on nude dancing legislation in 1996, then supporting the controversial bill after nude dancing protests exploded in Harrison County. Fragale had a falling out with House leadership that his critics said showed that he was an ineffective leader who couldn't get along with others in Charleston.

"I really didn't want to go back to the House. I took a big gamble," Fragale said. "It's hard to tell how I feel initially."

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