Story by Chris Graham
Emmett Hanger has been highlighting his experience and seniority in his race for renomination by the 24th Senate District Republican Party.
But there is something to be said about how a political newcomer like Scott Sayre – who is competing for the nomination in the 24th against Hanger – could offer a needed fresh perspective to governance in Richmond.
We asked the candidates about the experience issue in our interviews with them for this week’s “New Dominion” Internet radio podcast.
“I’ve been involved in the community for a long time – not just in elected office. But for me, service in Richmond has been an extension of community involvement. I’ve actually served in the Senate now three terms – I’m in my 12th year. Which actually in terms of length of service, you’ll find in Richmond, is a relatively short amount of time. As an example, I am on the Senate Finance Committee, but I just got there – I just got a seat on the end of the table. But with the retirements and changes that are happening right now, I’ll find myself in a much better position to have influence.”
“Influence and ability to be effective and provide leadership in Richmond is somewhat a function of seniority – but it’s also a function of leadership ability and willingness to be aggressive and represent and to think of new ideas and be creative and be willing to wade into controversial areas. And I’ve done all of those things.
“There are people down there that after a while they perhaps get stale. I’m right now challenged by the fact that I’m in a position where I can get things done – and I have a full agenda of things that I want to accomplish for our area and the state that I’m hard-pressed to try to accomplish them all. And I have a significant agenda that I have planned for this upcoming year.”
“I tend to not brag about the things that I do. That’s just my nature. But I am in a position where I can make a significant difference. I’m the leading person – and have been for several years – on agriculture, farm and preservation issues in Richmond. And as it happens, because of the turnover, and my positioning, I am in line to become the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, if I’m successful in going back this time. That’s tremendously important for this area – because it allows me to be in the focal point of dealing statewide with agriculture and conservation policies. Which is extremely important to our area.”
“It also puts me in a position on the Senate Finance Committee of being able to provide good stewardship for the many state agencies. We sometimes take it for granted – but back in the early 1800s, mid 1800s, when facilities were being sited, and decisions were being made, we still had West Virginia as part of Virginia, so this was sort of a midway point of sorts here in the Valley. So we have acquired mental-health facilities, Western State, we have acquired the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, we also have a regional headquarters for transportation, we have state correction facilities – numerous state facilities that provide vital services throughout the state, but are dependent on capital budgeting and are dependent on budgets for those employees, and are very critical for the economy of our area. I’m in a position to take care of those needs – and actually have a fairly aggressive agenda, particularly with VSDB, where after many years of working on that, I was able to get an agreement, which the governor and I have talked recently about, and we still have some things to iron out, and it’s going to require a significant amount of investment in Staunton in order to bring that about, as well as dealing with a regional program in Hampton.”
“We’ve got on the drawing boards a new psychiatric hospital there – which I want to make sure remains in our area, and that we do it in a way that’s cost-efficient for our taxpayers.”
“I’ve actually been the leader in Richmond on dealing with illegal immigration. Things take political turns where it becomes popular, it polls well, and it becomes popular to do certain things. Well, right now, as it happens, it’s very popular to just whack on immigrants. We have to be careful when we do that – because immigration has been very important. In fact, here in the Valley, we’ve long been a melting pot for cultures – where really the American experience was born and thrived here in the Valley. Not Jamestown, but you really had more an assimilation of cultures here in Western Virginia and here in the Valley. So it’s something that’s very important to us – and it remains important to us today.”
“I don’t want to make his years of service an issue in this campaign – or hold it against him because he’s been out there for 21 years down in Richmond while we’ve been back here trying to make a living and building our economy. But when you look at it, sometimes a person has 21 years experience, and sometimes a person has the same experience 21 times.”
“If you go back and talk about leadership roles, my opponent claimed the other day in my debate with him in Greene County that the 2004 Warner tax increase wasn’t that – it was really a tax-reform package that my opponent took a leadership role in. Well, when you open up the documents, and you go back to 2004, and you look at Senate Bill 30, which my opponent voted for, that was actually a $2.6 billion increase. That never made it out of the Senate Finance Committee. You know why? Because he in his leadership position, along with (John) Chichester and (Russ) Potts, and both of them, by the way, have decided not to run again for re-election – Chichester and Potts are gone. Now, do you want the same leaders in office over the next 10 years – the same people who doubled your spending? I don’t think so. In fact, if you go back and look at the folks there, it was Hanger, Chichester and Potts lined up against our lieutenant governor, who then was a senator, Bill Bolling, and our senators to the north and south, Mark Obenshain and Brandon Bell. Those folks voted against this tax increase – and when it finally made it to the House for a $1.4 billion increase, guess who voted against it? Our delegates – all of our local delegates, (Ben) Cline, (Steve) Landes, (Chris) Saxman, (Rob) Bell, voted against this.”
“Now, that is a reflection of the leadership – and if that’s the mark of a leader, we don’t need leaders like that, and especially on our Senate Finance Committee.”
“We have an opportunity now as a Republican Party to replace individuals who have left the party with folks who will stand in the gap and support free enterprise, citizenship and responsible spending.”