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Emmett Hanger forms PAC, exploring a run for governor in 2021

Emmett Hanger
Emmett Hanger

State Sen. Emmett Hanger is forming a PAC that will work toward the passage of a constitutional amendment to mandate non-partisan political redistricting – and also allow him to explore a run for governor in 2021.

“Our mission is to bring Virginians from many backgrounds and points of view together to create common-sense solutions to the problems we face and build a better Virginia,” Hanger said of his new PAC, Virginians for a Better Tomorrow.

Hanger, a Republican who has represented the 24th District in the State Senate since 1996, confirmed in an interview with the Times-Dispatch that he is exploring a possible run for the 2021 GOP gubernatorial nomination.

The GOP field is still fleshing out at this early stage. Only Chesterfield State Sen. Amanda Chase is a definite in the Republican race. Bill Carrico, a former state senator from Grayson, is also in the exploratory phase of a possible run.

Hanger, 72, a self-styled “Mountain Valley Republican,” is a better November candidate than he is a June candidate – a middle-of-the-road conservative with crossover appeal who can win a general election, but might have trouble getting oxygen in a party primary surrounded by conservative firebrands.

To wit there: despite his success electorally dating back now more than a quarter century, Hanger has faced intra-party challenges in three of his most recent four re-elections, most recently in 2019, when he won renomination with a 15-point win over conservative activist Tina Freitas.

This is why Hanger acknowledged to the Times-Dispatch that winning the party gubernatorial nomination is a “high hurdle,” though it could also be said that the notion of going with another conservative activist might make 2021 a high hurdle across the board for Republicans.

The GOP is 0-for-6 in state races the past two gubernatorial cycles, in 2013 and 2017, and Democrats have both houses of the state legislature, both U.S. Senate seats and an 8-to-3 majority in the state’s delegation in the U.S. House.

It’s tradition in Virginia to lay low a year out from the gubernatorial cycle so as not to take the focus off the presidential election, so the focus on the redistricting amendment is smart political cover for Hanger in the here and now.

“Our only chance to put citizens first, instead of politicians, is to pass the Constitutional Amendment that creates a bipartisan, citizen-led, commission to draw new districts,” Hanger said. “I helped lead the effort in the legislature to advance this to the ballot, and now I want to finish the job by making sure it passes.

“The right to have fair and equal representation is the basis of representative government,” Hanger said. “Voters should choose their elected officials, not elected officials choosing their voters. Virginians for a Better Tomorrow will work on a broad range of issues, but our first project is to pass the Constitutional Amendment by raising money and recruiting volunteers to educate voters.”

Story by Chris Graham