A Republican primary to keep your eye on tomorrow is in the 24th State Senate District (Augusta County, Rockingham County, Staunton, Culpeper County, Waynesboro, Greene County, Madison County), where longtime incumbent, State Senator Emmett Hanger, is fighting off not one but two opponents. Opponent #1 is Dan Moxley, a Tea Partier endorsed by the usual band o’ crazies: E.W. Jackson, Susan Stimpson, the “Middle Resolution” PAC, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, etc. Opponent #2 is Marshall Pattie, “a former local Democratic Party committee chair” who, “[a]fter working on behalf of Barack Obama and Creigh Deeds…switched allegiances to Mitt Romney and Ken Cuccinelli, presumably with an eye toward Hanger’s seat in 2015” (and has been “running somehow to the right of Emmett Hanger”…including opposition to Medicaid expansion). Ee gads.
So why is Hanger, a conservative Republican who has been in the State Senate for nearly 20 years, being primaried? Because, of course, even conservative Republicans aren’t safe these days from Tea Party challenges. Yeah, it’s nuts, but sadly it’s the way things are in the once-great Republican Party these days – stray even one iota from hard-right orthodoxy, and you risk your political career. In Hanger’s case, it was the unspeakable heresy of pushing a compromise proposal, called “Marketplace Virginia,” which would have helped provide health care coverage to 400,000 Virginians while getting back $2 billion per year of our own money. Hanger did make one big mistake, however. As Chris Graham of the Augusta Free Press explains:
…[Hanger in 2014] voted with the rest of his Republican Party in approving changes to the state budget effectively killing the Marketplace Virginia Medicaid expansion that he had himself helped to craft earlier this year. In so doing, I offered to the Senate veteran, he had sided with the Tea Party, which is never going to support Hanger, a staunch conservative by pre-2008 terms, who now looks like a centrist moderate with the 2014 GOP ever further to the right, at the expense of his actual constituency, which includes mainstream Republicans, who do still exist, the rumors of their mass deaths having been grossly exaggerated, plus independents and crossover Democrats, myself included in that latter group.
The Tea Party, I reminded Hanger, was lining up its candidates to run against him in 2015, but the battle that I expected him to wage was already lost, because in helping kill Marketplace Virginia, Hanger was sure to lose at the least the crossover Democrats, plus a fair number of the independents and perhaps some of the mainstream Republicans, all of whom are tiring of the new business as usual.
So, tomorrow we’ll see if Hanger survives his challenges from the right by two opponents. My guess is that he will, comfortably, in part because he’s facing TWO opponents, not one, and they will split the anti-Hanger vote. If Hanger wins tomorrow, it will also be after fighting off what he calls an “invasion from outside attack groups” you’ve probably never heard of, like the aforementioned “Middle Resolution” PAC, as well as whatever VCA, NAGR, and C4L stand for. So…good for Sen. Hanger for responding with a humorous ad which mocks these wackos. Sure, it’s unconventional, but it’s certainly no “Demon Sheep” or anything like that (note: the candidate who ran that insane ad is now runnning for…yep, you guessed it, the Republican nomination for PRESIDENT in 2016!). Anyway, good luck to Sen. Hanger tomorrow, as his victory will demonstrate that there’s a least a tiny bit of sanity left in the Virginia Republican Party these days…