Sen. Hanger's campaign kick-off
State Senator Emmett Hanger launched his campaign at a press conference in Verona last week, receiving endorsements from nearly all of the elected officials from Augusta County. One of them was David Beyeler, a semi-retired farmer who represents the South River District on the Board of Supervisors: "The Senator represents this area well, and he has seniority." In his remarks, Sen. Hanger criticized anti-tax activists who are behind his opponent, Scott Sayre. He complained about the misleading radio advertisements attacking him and declared "that he wouldn't be bullied by 'anti-tax, anti-government extremists.'" Good for him! The article in the News Leader quoted some folks who tried to link Sen. Hanger to the big-spending ways of Gov. Tim Kaine and the Democrats, which is just plain ridiculous.
Even though he is friendly and well-liked by his constituents, Sen. Hanger is anything but a professional politician, which may explain his relaxed attitude toward the campaign. In fact, it was not until yesterday that I saw the first Hanger road signs posted. There were four of them along Route 11 between Harrisonburg and Fort Defiance, where he went to high school.
I was taken aback by the hostile reaction of some pro-Sayre bloggers to the endorsements received by Hanger. Those bloggers have been railing against Hanger for months, and now they complain about his "negative" campaign statements. For a person like me who has been involved with these things first hand for many months, such a reaction could not possibly be more ironic. As one example, "SWAC Girl" (the "s" is questionable, I think) claimed that Hanger had "slammed the grassroots volunteers who work for the Republican Party," when all he did was to point out -- quite rightly -- that several Republican committee chairs in this area have contrived to paint a false image of widespread opposition to Hanger from within the party rank and file. Hanger said nothing negative about "grassroots volunteers" at all. Perhaps it all comes down to how a "grassroots volunteer" is defined. She also listed the elected officials who endorsed Hanger, along with their salaries, and then listed the local Republican party officers who have endorsed Sayre. She made one glaring omission, however: Guess who?
If you ask me, Sen. Hanger should be proud to get the endorsements of those public officials. After all, they are all folks who are responsible for properly managing the taxpayers' money, and they know how hard it is to deliver vital public services while keeping the tax burden to a tolerable level. In contrast, many people from the private sector fail to appreciate how difficult it is to maintain fiscal responsibility. That is why those anti-tax pledges are so pernicious -- they convey the false impression that all you have to do to solve a problem in public affairs is just make a declaration. In reality, getting things done (or undone) in government involves a lot of a hard bargaining.
Spank That Donkey also called attention to the "grass-roots" nature of Sayre's campaign. Well, it may have "grass-roots" aspects in terms of the folks who are doing the heavy lifting and sign-hammering, but it is anything but "grass-roots" in terms of who is funding and organizing the campaign. As is well known, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform group has been recruiting right-wing candidates to run against moderate conservatives for the past several years. In 2004 that group put out an angry "Wanted" poster showing all the members of the Virginia General Assembly who voted for the tax hike, and Sen. Hanger's face was among those on it. (At least it didn't say "dead or alive.") Their choice to run against Hanger (not necessarily their first choice) was Scott Sayre, who has no experience in politics whatsover, as far as anyone knows.
Bloggers for Sayre?
At last count, there were fifteen blogs signed up on Bloggers for Sayre, but most of their identities are either anonymous or dubious. As far as I know, I'm the only blogger in the 24th District who supports Emmett Hanger, though I'm sure there must be at least one or two Hanger supporters who blog elsewhere in the Old Dominion. Whether that says more about Hanger, or more about the current state of the "conservative" blogosphere in Virginia, remains to be seen.