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Hanger addresses ’09, county politics issues

Story by Chris Graham

Emmett Hanger is smart enough not to fall into the trap I was laying for him.

I wanted to get Hanger to talk to me about his possible rekindled interest in running for lieutenant governor next year – knowing, of course, as I was asking the question that I was jumping the gun a bit presuming that Hanger could end up back in the running for the Republican Party nomination in a scenario in which Tim Kaine ends up on the Barack Obama national ticket, the Obama-Kaine team wins in November, and then current Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling ends up succeeding Kaine as governor.

You have to give me credit for trying.

“It’s probably premature to speculate, although sometimes it is fun to speculate,” Hanger told me in a phone conversation on Wednesday. “The dynamic that is out there right now, some would say it’s a slim chance that Tim Kaine would be the pick. But if it were, the decision between Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling would have a different dynamic, I guess. So obviously that’s something to speculate about.”

And actually, that’s the one part of the scenario that we wouldn’t have to speculate much about. UVa. political-science professor Larry Sabato wrote in a Crystal Ball column this week that Bolling and McDonnell have worked out a gentleman’s agreement amongst themselves that would give Bolling a clear shot at the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the event that he were to succeed Kaine as governor before their terms are up. Christopher Newport University professor Quentin Kidd told me that he too understands that such an agreement was in place.

So the idea that Hanger could once again be a lieutenant-governor candidate is not as farfetched as it might otherwise seem. Hanger had been initiating an effort to get a campaign team together earlier this year before Bolling, as part of that gentleman’s agreement with McDonnell, stepped out of the running for the gubernatorial nomination to run for re-election as LG. “But with him running again for that position, I really had no interest in challenging him,” said Hanger, who finally conceded to me that if Bolling were to be running for governor next year, “that would present a different dynamic.”

Enough about things that we can only speculate might happen, and on to things that are ongoing in local Republican circles. Hanger said he hasn’t yet spoken with new Augusta County Republican Committee chair Bill Shirley, who was tapped to replace Kurt Michael after the tumult that was the spring for the county GOP. That process ended with Hanger officially off the local committee’s rolls, technically an outsider looking in, an interesting place to be for the first Republican elected to public office in Augusta County since Reconstruction when he won the county treasurer’s race in 1979.

“I still consider myself very much a Republican and a leader here in the Republican cause. There have been some issues here locally that will just have to be sorted out over time. But I don’t intend to push the issue,” Hanger said. “We as Republicans would be better served if we just focused on working to elect Republicans, Bob Goodlatte locally for Congress and John McCain nationally. Having that common goal will bring us together in effect. There really is I guess no reason for us to be sidetracked with these intraparty differences. That will be sorted out at some point. But right now, I think the more people who subscribe to the Republican Party platform, are willing to support Republican Party candidates, that’s what it’s all about, so hopefully that’s what everyone will be doing that like to think of themselves as conservatives and support the platform of the Republican Party.”

But even as he said that, Hanger did show evidence of battle scarring. “I think what will have to do over time is work on getting along and supporting all Republicans and doing it in a positive way. Yeah, there are still some rumblings out there. There are some that because of the efforts against me that consider me the enemy. I don’t envision myself in that way. I think we just need to keep our roots deep and broad so that we can build the party,” Hanger said.

The Republican Party in the Valley is just going through some growing pains as the demographics of the Valley shift and more people from Northern Virginia and the Northeast settle here and bring a different brand of politics here with them. “Mountain Valley Republicanism has been around for a long time, and it has stood the test of time in that it’s conservative, but it also has a strong element of common sense associated with it. And it also has to do with demeanor. You don’t have to be mean about it. You don’t have to be in anybody’s face. Just speak to your issues and be consistent,” Hanger said.

“There are some that think being conservative is being anti-government. I don’t think that could be further from the truth,” Hanger said. “I think we should be proud, really, of our country, and the government that allows us to create the opportunities that it has. And so we have to draw that line in an appropriate fashion so that we don’t allow conservatism to become ultraconservatism and then anti-government, because we collectively are the government. We constitute the government of this country, and that’s a great thing. And we’re seeing efforts on the part of some now at the national level that are causing us to question the American Dream, that the American experiment has run its course, and there are factors that are going to cause us to fail.

“I don’t believe that, but what I do believe is occasionally we have to refocus on those elements that make us a great nation. And certainly our Constitution, which provides the underpinnings, is a significant part of that, but it’s also the people. So we collectively need to get our act together, because our government at any one point in time is a reflection of all of us,” Hanger said.

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