State Senator Emmett Hanger Explores Run for Governor

“When I started, I considered myself to be one of the most conservative members, and I don’t think my views have changed, but there are more people who are considerably to the right of me. On the other hand, there are people far to the left of me. I’ve been referred to as a ‘moderate’ now, and that used to bother me. But I’ve come to equate that label with meaning reasonable, and I accept that.” -Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24th Senate District)

I’ve got to admit I’m pretty psyched at the thought of my state senator considering a run for the Republican nomination for Virginia Governor. He would be perfect for the job. The news was shared by the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Sen. Emmett Hanger, a moderate Republican who bucked his party to expand Virginia’s Medicaid program, is launching a political action committee to boost voter support for a constitutional amendment on non-partisan political redistricting – and test the water for a possible bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Hanger, 72, confirmed on Sunday that he is considering a run for the Republican nomination for governor this year as an attempt to broaden the party’s base of support and set the state on a path of “good governance” instead of partisanship.

“I’d like to see us re-establish ourselves as a place in the nation where people look to as leaders in good governance,” he said in an interview.

A lifelong Republican who helped begin the trend from blue to red in Augusta County when he ran against Democratic Senator Frank Nolen in 1996 and won, Sen. Hanger is respected for his representation of all his constituents. He has legislated throughout the years by reaching across the aisle and working with his Senate colleagues — Republican and Democrat — and has earned the reputation as a level-headed legislator.

In November 2019 when Democrats won both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly, many eyes turned to Senator Hanger. The right side of his own party, who criticized him because of his Democratic support in the district, was short-sighted in realizing the importance of such leadership. Reporter Jessica Wetzler wrote in the December 2019 Daily News Record (see Hanger’s Time: Hanger’s Bipartisanship Will Be Useful in Upcoming Session):

With his experience in working within the majority and minority, Hanger has been able to reach across the aisle.

“You need to basically be fair in terms of working with those in the minority because they tend to basically use that example when the situation gets reversed,” he said.

Exercising his belief of being fair, Hanger has built a working relationship with Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, who said Hanger is a great guy.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Deeds said. “I think he thinks about policy before politics and Emmett is pretty good with looking at the big picture.”

Deeds said once you are elected, you represent everyone, and Hanger does just that.

“He is someone I lean on for advice, guidance and assistance,” Deeds said.

With a voting record supporting limited government and fiscal conservatism, both pillars of conservative politics, being a protector of individual rights as well as individual responsibility is on Hanger’s list. Where Hanger may stand out in the Republican Party is his belief in government common-sense solutions over party politics.

The editorial board of the Daily News Record agreed in this op-ed from January (see Valley Needs Hanger to Keep Being Hanger):

Thankfully, Emmett Hanger knows how to reach across the aisle. He’s proven it time and time again since the Mount Solon Republican was elected to serve in the Virginia Senate 24th District back in 1996.

Now, more than ever, we need Hanger to extend those arms and reach across the aisle. Now, more than ever, we need Hanger to remain respected by the Democrats while representing the community’s interests. Now, more than ever, we need Hanger to remind the rest of the state about the Valley and that it needs our agriculture. Our rural landscape, after all, is the state’s historic breadbasket.

With his home in the northwestern corner of Augusta County at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, Senator Hanger knows rural Virginia and would not forget them while in Richmond:

“I am interested in promoting opportunities in rural Virginia, that is largely represented by Republicans,” Hanger said. “I don’t think the Valley will be in jeopardy. We are fortunate in the Valley that we have a strong moral compass.”

Always supportive of education, mental health, agriculture, and the environment, to name a few, he works with the Southern Legislative Conference and National Conference of State Legislators. In the legislature he has been Senate Finance Co-Chair, a budget conferee, and Chair of the Health and Human Services Finance subcommittee.

In 2018 he was named one of the 10 most effective legislators in America. He has represented Virginia’s 24th District since 1996 and has been a leader in the fight for redistricting reform. He also serves as Co-Chairman of the Commonwealth Caucus (a bi-partisan group of legislators that support common-sense solutions for all Virginians) and was named the Most Effective Legislator in Virginia in 2017 and 2018.

Not bad for the local kid who grew up, went to Richmond to represent his community, and is known in the Valley simply as Emmett.

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