These are not the halcyon days of our republic. Instead of calm we have chaos. Instead of tranquility we have turbulence. But hope may be on the horizon.
Recently Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, made an announcement. In case you missed it, the state senator was forming an action committee to lead an effort for a fairer way to draw election districts and himself for governor.
Hanger had been a nearly singular Republican voice against gerrymandering, the process of drawing political voting districts by the party in power to keep that party in power. He did this even while it benefitted he and his party. “Statesmanship” is not a word used much anymore, for good reason, but could make a comeback when considering this man.
Now that the Rorschach inkblots, posing as legislative districts, are out of favor by the out of favor Republicans, he is not alone. Except, with the shoe now being on the other foot, Democrats are having second thoughts.
Perfection is known to be the enemy of the good. And the Constitutional amendment Hanger supports might indeed have weaknesses. In fact, he had offered a different plan in the legislature. But with an eye on the better, not the perfect, he put his own preference aside. The public expects continual improvement but generally prefers the gradual to the grand.
As for running for governor; we should be so lucky. Sure he is brown shoes in a tuxedo world, but isn’t that what we are looking for now? A good pair of worn, but serviceable, loafers (a type of shoe, not a description of Emmett) ready for church, work, or gently prodding lazy bottoms in Richmond, may be just the footwear required for today’s fashionable governor.
The task of becoming governor, for a middle of the road Republican, will be daunting. Hanger will not be the first choice of the hard right folks controlling his party. Those folks are good at arousing passions but not so effective in actually winning elections. Perhaps constant losing will motivate even those, who never saw an election they couldn’t blow up, to conclude the majority of Virginians prefer a well-functioning government to continual revolution.
The dalliances with the likes of Ken Cuccinelli may have been emotionally satisfying for some but there aren’t enough of this “some” to win. Conversely, Hanger would scare the britches off the Dems.
Hanger will mean more people in the GOP tent. Independents do not like the wild guys. They prefer the steady, the decent, like Emmett. It’s that simple.
I can speak confidently about Hanger because we have occupied the same space for so long. In high school he was part of the “big uglies” on Fort Defiance’s basketball team. I was on Buffalo Gap’s team of normal sized but much better looking young heroes. We met in the District V finals and the good prevailed. (That would be Gap, thank you)
We both went into service, attended Madison College, and married up in being chosen as suitable by girls from the same Richmond high school, Hermitage. In 1995 Emmett was elected senator and I Augusta County supervisor.
It was as supervisor I could see the difference between those who never left their party allegiance behind and one who sought the better for the people of Augusta County. We got help with the internal mechanisms of Richmond in achieving help with funding for flood dams and grant applications for the service authority. Our legislative aide in Richmond always found an ally in Hanger.
He carried and had passed legislation allowing the county to put as many as six years between mandatory reassessments. This saved money in the county budget and additional time between tax increases for our taxpayers.
He had worked on a long shot proposal of mine to use the “land use” values of farm acreage to more accurately reflect the county’s ability to fund education. (This is government minutiae but would be a big benefit for our schools.) Hanger never made excuses for why something good could not be done but rather said he would look into it, and would.
We know that any party which becomes all powerful will become untethered to balanced government. Voting “Yes” this November for fairer re-districting is an important way to keep political overreach tempered. Working to advance Hanger to governor will bring true bipartisanship to the governor’s mansion.
Halcyon days may await us yet.
Tracy Pyles, a former chairman and member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors who lives in Augusta County, is a columnist for The News Virginian. His column is published Saturdays.
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