What’s Emmett going to do?
Story by Chris Graham
Everybody, it seems, wants to know what Emmett Hanger is up to these days.
It has to be a nice place to be in.
“I’ve been encouraged to learn that my name is already known across the state. I also realize that it might not always be for positive things,” quipped Sen. Hanger, a Mount Solon Republican whose much-discussed flirtation with a run at the GOP lieutenant-governor nomination is now in its ninth month.
Hanger began exploring a possible candidacy for the second spot on the Republican Party state ticket last May.
He told The Augusta Free Press this week – drum roll, please – that he is in.
“I will be making a formal announcement defining my positioning in the race shortly. I know I’m getting a late start to it, and that it’s going to be more difficult to raise money with the late start that I’m getting. But I’m not really the type to run a campaign that raises a lot of money and has me going everywhere bragging about what a great guy I think I am anyway,” Hanger said.
“As far as I’m concerned, the proof is in the pudding,” Hanger said. “My thought is that the best thing that I can do is to do a responsible job in the Senate and engage myself in the public debate on the issues of the day in a positive way.”
His first few moments in the statewide spotlight in 2005 came Wednesday night when he delivered one of the two Republican responses to Gov. Mark Warner’s State of the Commonwealth address.
In his speech, broadcast live to television viewers across the Old Dominion, Hanger, now in his third term representing the 24th Senate District in the Virginia General Assembly, reached across party lines to praise the governor, who is in the final year of his four-year term in the state’s top government job, for his “willingness during the past couple of years to work with the legislature in making the tough choices to significantly reduce discretionary spending and beginning the difficult job of tax reform.”
“While there were significant areas of disagreement, together we were able to restore fiscal integrity to our state budget and reduce the need for localities to balance their budgets by increasing local fees and property taxes,” said Hanger, who came under heavy fire from fiscal conservatives in the GOP last year for his support of Warner’s tax-reform initiative.
Of note is that Hanger is saying to anyone who will listen that the work of tax reform is not even close to being done. The senator has introduced legislation to repeal the estate tax and will also work in the upcoming assembly session toward winning passage of a bill that would lead to the elimination of the additional June payment for sales and use taxes required of retailers with taxable sales and purchases of $1.3 million or greater.
“I plan to advance legislation in the session that will continue us on the path toward true tax reform, and I hope we can see some success to those efforts,” Hanger said.
That the moves would seem to quiet the conservative critics is not a matter of concern for Hanger.
“All of these things are part of the package that I introduced last year. If they would have looked, they would have seen that,” Hanger said.
“The idea from the start, for me, was to enact a tax reform that was revenue neutral. Some of these other things fell by the wayside, but I’m still committed to seeing them through,” Hanger said.
“The problem with some of these groups is that when you sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and then you propose taking $2 off the table in the form of a tax cut, and you want to come up with a way to replace that $2, you can’t do that, because that’s raising taxes. That’s the way these folks see it, anyway,” Hanger said.
So he has already hit the ground running, so to speak, in his bid for statewide office – in his own way, that is.
“My feeling is that if I can demonstrate for the next two months that I am a leader for Virginia, I think that will serve me much better than to go around talking about how great I am,” Hanger said.
“From there, we’ll just have to wait to see how things go,” Hanger said.