Hanger vs. Sayre: the podcast
State Senator Emmett Hanger and the challenger, Scott Sayre, were both interviewed by Chris and Crystal Graham of The New Dominion on Friday, and you can listen to the podcast at your leisure. Sen. Hanger made his main points effectively without getting bogged down in the murky details. Mr. Sayre is getting better at handling questions, but he still has a very long way to go in terms of addressing complex issues.
The first question -- on defining "fiscal conservatism" -- was an easy "lob" pitch for which Sen. Hanger was well prepared. He linked that term to fiscal responsibility, which for him "has to do with much more than being for or against any particular tax, it has to do with balancing budgets..." and is tied to the basic idea of limited government. He reminded everyone that the Republican Party (of Virginia) creed has been his guideline for political philosophy ever since he joined the party.
Sen. Hanger did exceptionally well in explaining his position on in-state tuition for illegal aliens, about which I had my doubts. Now I understand better where he is coming from. His goal is to force the courts to revisit the Supreme Court ruling that prohibited public schools from asking whether immigrant students had legal status or not. It is a good example of issues in which responsibility between the states and the federal government is blurred. Mr. Sayre voiced outrage at the immigration status quo, but didn't offer much in the way of solutions.
Both candidates were asked whether they would support their opponents in the general election. Sen. Hanger reiterated his loyalty to the Republican Party, making it clear he would not run as an independent. In contrast, Mr. Sayre demurred on this vital question, missing an opportunity to help unify the splintered Virginia GOP. He noted correctly that he has not been involved in politics, so the question had not really occurred to him, while boasting of his endorsements by local Republican Party chairmen -- for whatever that's worth.
Tonight the two candidates will square off in a forum at Blue Ridge Community College.
BRCC forum update
At this evening's public forum, both candidates made pretty much the same points as they had made in their podcasts, and I didn't notice any gaffes. Sen. Hanger once again displayed a thorough command of the complex issues facing the state government, and Mr. Sayre kept coming back with crowd-pleasing one-liners. In response to the question about whether each candidate would run as an independent should they lose on June 12, Mr. Sayre said that he expected to win. Well! If he based his optimism on the results of the telephone survey (in which I participated) last week, he should heed this word of caution: those "push-polls" with leading questions ("Do you think incumbent Sen. Hanger deserves another term, or is it time for a change?") do not yield valid indicators of voting behavior. For most of the time, Sayre had a smirk on his face, perhaps anticipating the silly stunt with the umbrella in his closing remarks, an attempt to ridicule a new enclosed walkway between the State Capitol Building and the legislators' offices. Stay tuned for video clips of Sen. Hanger and/or Mr. Sayre...
In Friday's News Leader, Al Dahler wrote an op-ed piece entitled "Sayre strikes a bargain with the devil." [This was in reference to the no-tax pledge he signed, as part of the quid pro quo with Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.] In it, [Mr. Dahler] praised Sen. Hanger:
Personally, I applaud Sen. Hanger's prudence to transcend ideology, assuring Virginia's fiscal health. Conscientious conservatives recognize the state's obligation to meet its citizens' myriad legitimate requirements and aspirations. Energetic economic growth rests on a foundation of adequately state-funded services, an excellent education system and a first-rate transportation infrastructure.
Well put; too bad it had to come from a "progressive" (leftist). Dogwood Pundit jumped on this op-ed piece to make the case that Sen. Hanger is the darling of leftists throughout the Old Dominion. Not exactly. The true significance of Dahler's piece is that the Republican Party of today is giving away to the Democrats its traditional advantage on the issue of fiscal responsibility. Among pragmatic-minded centrist voters, that issue carries a lot of weight and has often been the decisive factor in close elections.
We can leave the question of what a "progressive" is until later. Suffice it to say that Sen. Hanger's model Republican leader, Teddy Roosevelt, was a progressive Republican, believing in reform on behalf of the broad public interest. Like "TR," Sen. Hanger is a strong advocated of nature and wildlife conservation.