Is it Sayre’s to lose?

Column by Chris Graham

The question that I get asked most often these days – by locals, by politicos, by professors from outside the Valley – has to do with the Emmett Hanger-Scott Sayre Republican primary race in the 24th Senate District.

“Who do you think is going to win?”

You could have guessed that that was the question – admittedly, I’m still not beyond having to guess at the answer.

And that was before the monkey wrench that got thrown into the race by the announcement that an Augusta County Democrat is going to make it a bona fide three-way field in November, joining whoever wins the GOP nomination and Libertarian Arin Sime.

And so it is that I finally bring myself to this point of public humiliation that I call an analysis piece.

Ahem … here goes.

The first thing that interests me has to do with a conversation that I had recently with a friend who is a hard-core Democrat – who told me point blank that she plans to involve herself in the June 12 GOP primary so that she can vote for Emmett Hanger.

The reason, she said, is that she isn’t so sure that the Democrat, Will Hrovat, a political newcomer from Churchville, is going to be a viable candidate – and so faced with the alternative of Scott Sayre, a committed fiscal conservative, Emmett Hanger, a moderate conservative on fiscal issues and solid-right conservative socially, Arin Sime, a fiscally conservative Libertarian who is moderate on the social side of the ledger, or Hrovat, a basic unknown at this point, she is backing Hanger.

I found this to be most interesting – and realizing that it is only one person, I don’t want to make too much of it, but also quite revealing.

Because my thought when I heard the news last week that the Democrats had rustled up a candidate to run in November was that it spelled doom for Hanger – whom I think will need very much to get support from Republican-leaning independents, Democratic-leaning independents and outright Democrats to be able to beat back the Sayre challenge.

I’m not as sure of that impending-doom bit right now – though I am still leaning toward that analysis at this point in time.

I also want to wonder aloud about the impact that the entree into the race of a Dem will have on the Sayre camp – from the blog postings that I have seen, it seems to me that the news of Hrovat’s candidacy energized them because they read Hrovat’s decision to run as a tacit concession by 24th District Democrats that the race is Sayre’s to lose.

Whether or not that is the case, the extra incentive to work that much harder on the part of those in the Sayre camp could itself play a role in the final outcome – though we will never be able to know for sure how things were going to turn out, given the absence of public polls in the race.

There is one other issue that I want to try to analyze before I get to some sort of final analysis point today – namely, how November shakes out.

My read at this time is that 24th District Dems might actually have a chance in November if Hanger is upset in the primary next month – because the one factor holding Hrovat back right now, his lack of political experience, is negated by the fact that Sayre as well has not been elected to public office. I still think Sayre wins in November if he gets the nomination in June, but if the Democratic Party of Virginia decides to target the race early on, things could get interesting around here around the end of September.

I have another view if Hanger wins the GOP nod – that we could see the third-party candidate, Sime, emerge in November, assuming that the pro-Sayre camp decides to back Sime, who agrees with Sayre and his supporters across the board on fiscal issues, and assuming that Hanger and Hrovat split the moderate and liberal vote in the district.

Again, I think ultimately that Hanger wins that three-way – but it is plain and obvious that a Hanger-Hrovat-Sime three-way could go any of three ways.

So here’s where we get to the point where I say who I think is going to win on June 12 – or try to wiggle my way out of doing so.

Er …

Um …

Fighting it … fighting it …

Alright, you’ve forced my hand.

I give it to Sayre – because primary elections are almost always turnout elections, and the winner is almost always the campaign that can get its voters to the polls.

The Sayre camp is going to bring voters to the polls – there’s no doubt about that.

It remains to be seen if Hanger is going to be able to mobilize his November coalition to win in June.

The paucity of chatter on the Hanger side tells me that he is going to be fighting an uphill battle in that respect three weeks hence.

(Originally published 05-22-07)



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