June 12, 2007
Right to the bitter end, supporters of Scott Sayre are tarring incumbent Senator Emmett Hanger with the unfair label of "RINO." As election day dawns, therefore, it behooves us to take a look at the facts to see which candidate has stronger credentials as a Republican.
|Over 25 years as an active Republican, including service as Augusta County GOP chairman; well-known and respected by his constituents.
|No known experience in politics, a proverbial "dark horse" until February.
|Long record of legislative accomplishments on behalf of conservative causes and success in negotiating deals in the Virginia General Assembly.
|Long record of success in business since leaving military service.
|Endorsed by former Senator George Allen, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Congressman Virgil Goode, House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell, House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, Delegate Steve Landes, and nearly all local GOP elected officials, who are accountable to the general public.
|Endorsed by nearly all local GOP committee chairmen, accountable to whomever they can muster at mass meetings.
|Strong, consistent believer in the Creed of the Republican Party of Virginia -- including the "fiscal reponsibility" part.
|Has pledged never to raise taxes, letting the Democrats take credit for fiscal reponsibility.
In contrast to the challenging candidate, who is a political novice, Emmett Hanger worked his way up through the system, beginning in 1979 when he was elected Commissioner of Revenue for Augusta County, the first Republican to win county office since Reconstruction. A few years later he won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1995, he ran for Virginia State Senate and defeated the incumbent Democrat, Frank Nolen. All this while, he was helping to build the Republican Party in the Shenandoah Valley - Mountain region, playing a key role in helping the GOP gain a majority in the Virginia state legislature. For this lifetime of hard, devoted work, he is now being attacked -- or dare I say "betrayed"? -- by a small but vocal fringe group who presume to embody the real Republican Party.
In terms of policy and ideology, there is no question that Emmett Hanger belongs on the conservative side of the spectrum. He has been unwavering in his commitment to the sanctity of life and Second Amendment rights, having received superlative ratings from the National Rifle Association. For Mr. Sayre to suggest that he can claim support from that organization is an outrage.
I have long had ambivalent feelings about moderate Republicans, some of whom lack all conviction, but I have refused to join in demonizing them as "RINOs," as many on the Right are fond of doing. As I wrote on May 21, 2005:
GOP moderates are often called "RINOs" (Republicans in name only) by the hard-core conservative activists, the kind who gravitate toward Grover Norquist and Karl Rove. Even though I'm usually on the conservative side of things, I have a strong distaste for harsh rhetoric those guys specialize in, and I don't take kindly to impugning the motives of people who share party affiliation or general leanings. Moderates have a vital role to play within the Republican party and within Congress.
By the twisted standards of today's world, sadly, past Republican presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower or Teddy Roosevelt would probably be considered "RINOs" just because they put the public interest first and foremost. On Jan. 3 of this year I wondered whether the late president Gerald Ford would be considered a "RINO" by the Republicans of today, based on his desire to heal the wounds of Watergate and work with the Democrats in Congress. On Jan. 18 I asked the same thing about Newt Gingrich, who has a "dangerous" tendency to use his brain and speak his mind. As many will recall, I raised hackles on May 18 by suggesting that many Republicans who demonize others as "RINOs" are themselves the ones who have strayed from the party's traditional doctrine. Get the picture?
It's now up to the voters to define the mainstream of the Party of Lincoln...
For whatever reason, uploading the Emmett Hanger campaign event video to YouTube failed after several attempts. Finally, I got lucky late this afternoon. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"