Hanger responds to intraparty challenge
With the traditional spring primary season only a few months away, three-term State Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Mount Solon) is facing a challenge in his reelection bid for the Republican nomination from Buena Vista businessman Scott Sayre. Recently, GOP chairs in Albemarle, Rockbridge, and Staunton have publicly expressed their displeasure with Hanger, according to the News Virginian, saying he has "strayed" from conservative principles on taxation.
But Hanger, undaunted, tells the Hook he stands by his position on tax reform. "If you're going to take the sales tax off food, eliminate the estate tax, and loosen the burden on local real estate, you have to make up that revenue somewhere," he says. "My opinion has been that we're better served if you draw more from income taxes and sales taxes because that's a better indicator of someone's ability to pay."
Sayre says Hanger's figuring doesn't add up. "Solutions to problems aren't always more taxes and more spending," he says, "We need to be able to continue all the great programs that we have without raising taxes."
As for the mutiny in his own party, Hanger says, "A lot of the [local] units have been taken over by people with different priorities than the traditional Republican priorities," by which he means "anti-tax, anti-public education, not matching up with the Republican party platform."
Although Hanger says he knew his positions on tax reform would "put a target on my head," he admits he's surprised by the challenge from within his own party. "It's somewhat ironic," he says. "I'm one of the leading spokespersons on pro-life issues; I've always had a 100 percent rating from the Christian Coalition; I'm regarded as the go-to guy for the NRA."
Asked why he feels compelled to run against Hanger, Sayre eschewed criticizing the three-term Richmond veteran. "I never said I could do a better job," he says, "I just want to give people a choice. I've never been in politics, and I'm just trying to get the message out of who I am first."
Hanger represents the 24th Senate District, which includes Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta County, Greene County, and part of western Albemarle County.