Politicians often talk about putting West Virginia first, and the Democratic and Republican candidates for secretary of state put that notion into motion well before Election Day.

Democrat Natalie Tennant moved out of her temporary campaign office in downtown Charleston so her landlord could prepare the streetside space for a permanent business.

Tennant, a Marion County native and North Marion High School graduate, began working out of her home while telling supporters that they can pick up signs and other campaign materials at any Democratic Party office.

“I knew that it would only be there until November,” Tennant said. “If someone wants to move in and see that as a viable location as a small business, they should certainly do it.”

Speaking of sacrifice, Charles Minimah offered to give up his spot on the GOP ticket entirely.

Frustrated by what he saw as a lack of media interest in the race, the Republican nominee wanted to get his party’s message across to voters. So in August he offered to have incumbent Betty Ireland, who decided earlier not to seek another term, take his place in the fall election.

When the offer was declined, Minimah resumed his position in the race with no apologies or regrets.

“Charles Minimah is not a quitter and has never been a quitter,” Minimah said. “Yes I did think about it, about what the potential backlash could be. I’m in the race to stay and I’m going to fight for West Virginians. West Virginia to me comes first. Always has and always will.”

Tennant saw the move as a half commitment to the race.

“It probably caused voters to question him,” Tennant said.

Voters haven’t had many chances to see either candidate during the height of the fall election, and even when there have been opportunities, few weighed in. The candidates attended a mid-October forum in the Eastern Panhandle that drew about 50 spectators. Tennant and Minimah also have appeared before newspaper editorial boards.

The Nigerian-born Minimah is a Charleston businessman who lost previous bids for the House of Delegates. Minimah has said his main mission is to fight voter apathy and stress clean elections.

“Yes I’ve indicated I’m the underdog in this race, but I’ll continue to work hard because people that know me know my background and my principles,” Minimah said.

In a year when Barack Obama is vying to become the first black U.S. president, Minimah would become the first black person elected to statewide office. Supreme Court Justice Franklin Cleckley was appointed in 1994 to fill a vacancy, spent 27 months on the bench and decided not to run for election.

Neither Minimah nor Tennant has evoked skin color in the campaign.

“People that know me know I’ve been involved in programs that are multicultural and promote racial harmony in West Virginia. That’s always been the case,” Minimah said. “I would hope West Virginians would realize that and not take race in a negative posture to vote for my opponent.”

Obama was defeated soundly by Hillary Rodham Clinton in the state’s Democratic presidential primary and Minimah said that could have a bearing on the secretary of state’s campaign.

“There’s reason to believe race may be a factor with respect with how the media views it,” Minimah said. “Looking at me as an African-American who doesn’t have the exposure that my opponent has, (some people) may draw the conclusion that I don’t stand a chance.”

Tennant is a former television news anchor and was West Virginia University’s first female Mountaineer mascot. She narrowly lost her party’s nomination for the office in 2004. Despite being outspent in the May primary, Tennant defeated House Majority Leader Joe DeLong and Senate Majority Whip Billy Wayne Bailey.

“This election ought to be about solutions and not celebrity,” Minimah said, continuing a point initiated by DeLong. “Having a name ID, while it’s good for her, it’s not good for West Virginians because that name ID comes with no substance.”

Minimah, who has operated a home health care business for nearly two decades, said he is the only candidate “that knows what it means to meet and make a payroll.”

Tennant, who is majority owner of a consulting company and has experience working in state government, replied that Minimah is offering attacks and criticisms without solutions, “and here I am with ideas.”

If she becomes the state’s top elections official, Tennant would stress clean elections; expand a government electronic-signature method on official documents; allow civic groups to be hired as poll workers for fundraising purposes and overcome a shortage of help on Election Day; and safeguard the secretary of state’s Web site, among other things.

“I’m putting all of my ideas out on the line to make West Virginia better and to make the Secretary of State’s office better,” she said.

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