Can local GOP repair bridge?

Story by Chris Graham

Will Greater Augusta-area Republicans be able to work together after the coming June 12 primary in the 24th Senate District? One local GOP blogger isn’t so sure.

“It depends a lot on what’s happened between now and then,” said Chris Green, the editor of Spank That Donkey and a member of the Bloggers4Sayre group that is backing Buena Vista businessman Scott Sayre in his challenge of incumbent Mount Solon Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger in the 24th.

“Emmett keeps saying that we’re saying mean and nasty things about him – and he’s calling us extremists. He came right off the bat – we’re antitax, antigovernment extremists. And that’s not true. We disagree with his positions – so if anybody’s making this a nasty campaign, he is,” Green said Monday in an interview for this week’s “New Dominion” podcast.

“It depends a lot on what the Emmett Hanger camp – how they treat their constituents. This is a two-way street when it comes down to respect,” Green said.

Respect is one of those mythical two-way streets – and Bloggers4Sayre has been doing its own share of the driving down the nasty side in recent weeks, with Photoshopped representations of Exxon gas-price signs with an “Emmett Gas” price sign to raise an issue with a proposal from Hanger to raise taxes on the purchase of gasoline to provide money for transportation improvements statewide and a representation of Hanger behind a radio microphone with a script in front of him reading “Fiction Radio” to draw attention to recent radio spots from the Hanger campaign critical of Sayre’s support from national antitax and antigovernment groups among the highlights.

The pro-Sayre bloggers have also done their part to fan the flames of tensions between the numbers of elected officials from the Augusta County Board of Supervisors and the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors all the way up the line to state-level offices who have endorsed Hanger in his nomination bid and the local party-unit chairs who have endorsed Sayre.

“You have absolutely two different perspectives on what happens,” Green said of the apparent intraparty divide. “You have all these volunteers who Emmett basically said, we’re insignificant – we’re not insignificant when we’re in his corner. When we’re working for him, he loves it – but we are people who are just motivated, like people who are motivated to blog, who just care, and who come out, and they do it for their own issue. He has basically alienated them over a period of about eight years now – this hasn’t been something that’s just happened over the last four. This has been something that’s been boiling to the top.
“It’s elected officials versus people who just do things out of principle. And once you get into office, your perspective does change,” Green said.

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