Story by Chris Graham

Lined up on the other side of the blogging ledger are 14 Bloggers4Sayre.

Andrew Clem must feel mighty lonely.

Clem, a Staunton Republican and political blogger, is supporting incumbent Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger in Hanger’s 24th District primary race with Buena Vista businessman Scott Sayre.

The back-and-forth between the two sides can come across as downright nasty at times – with Clem being referred to variously and pejoratively as “Andy” and “Dr. Clem” and Clem responding with the title “apostates” for Bloggers4Sayre members that he says have strayed from the Republican Party Creed on the issue of fiscal responsibility.

“Tax cuts are all something that we would like – but in my mind it is strictly contingent upon spending. And the fiscal-responsibility part of the Republican Party Creed is the guiding criterion – and if you don’t follow that, you’ll be in trouble,” Clem said today in an interview for the “New Dominion” Internet radio podcast.

The tax issue is certainly the issue driving the intraparty fracas in the 24th – and several other districts across the state where a similar template of moderate-conservative incumbent Republican senator vs. a strict antitax conservative challenger is being played out this spring primary season.

“This has been building for quite some time,” Clem said. “About the time when there was that controversial fiscal package back in May or June of 2004, when Emmett Hanger was among those who were in favor of the compromise measure, Mark Warner looked very good – he basically forced moderate Republicans to back down and go along with a package that ended up increasing revenues in some respects – but the spin on that that you’ve heard is really quite distorted.

“Emmett Hanger has taken time to explain exactly what measures were passed. And it’s unfortunate – because back at that time, there were all sorts of very hostile reactions. There were these wanted posters put out by the Americans for Tax Reform – which I thought at the time was just very shocking,” Clem said. “The reaction at the time was very troubling – and it indicated to me that we were headed toward trouble in the future. If that was the way they were going to react to a vote by a Republican, I thought we were going to have a real hard clash up ahead.”

As ugly as things have gotten in the 24th, it is hard to see where Republicans will be able to find a middle ground once the dust of the primary has settled and the focus shifts to the fall and November.

Just as Chris Green, a pro-Sayre blogger who goes by the blog handle Spank That Donkey, was noncommital in a question posed on the “New Dominion” podcast of two weeks ago as to whether he could foresee himself supporting Hanger should the senator win next month’s primary, Clem was similarly unable to say with absolute certainty that he would back Sayre where Sayre to win on June 12.

“At this point, I’m inclined to – with the condition that the rest of the campaign be run cleanly,” Clem said.

“There are ways to resolve differences in a civil way – and if the proper rules and the proper protocols are not followed, that’s when things break down,” Clem said.

“Yes, I’m willing to support Scott Sayre – but I think I will expect his supporters to observe rules of political civility between now and the rest of the campaign,” Clem said.

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