Behind Emmett Hanger’s winning strategy

Emmett Hanger 22

Emmett Hanger for Senate election night watch party at the Clocktower Restaurant in downtown Staunton.

By Lynn R. Mitchell

As I reflected on the past weeks working Senator Emmett Hanger’s 24th District primary, there was much to remember — memories, thoughts, observations (see Emmett Hanger wins huge in 24th Senate District). It was a short, intense campaign due to a lawsuit that was filed by the 24th District legislative committee, and it was not settled until April (see 24th Senate District: Court upholds laws of Commonwealth, Hanger gets primary). Once the court ruled, everything fell into place as Senator Hanger’s team set about working for his re-election in the June 9 Republican primary.

The result was a resounding victory with Senator Hanger taking 60 percent, Dan Moxley 27.5 percent, and Marshall Pattie 12 percent. Staunton City voters provided a whopping 71 percent of the vote for Hanger.

Now some are wondering who was behind the definitive winning strategy. They are some of the best Virginia has to offer.

Political consultant Boyd Marcus was dedicated and an inspiration to work with during the past weeks — a professional who was friendly, funny, and knowledgeable beyond belief while strategizing, developing the campaign plan, and overseeing the other consultants. The native Virginian and long-time political player, whose services were offered as an in-kind donation by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, has consulted and worked with Governor George Allen, Governor Jim Gilmore, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, and many House and Senate races throughout the years. This time he put his golden touch on the 24th Senate District and Emmett Hanger. It was a familiar partnership for the two political veterans. In 1995, Boyd advised Emmett Hanger when Hanger first won the 24th Senate District nomination, eventually defeating Democratic incumbent Frank Noland in the general election. Interestingly, Emmett was the first elected Republican in Augusta County since Reconstruction, leading the way in a county that is now solidly red.

Working alongside Boyd during the primary was another long-time veteran of Virginia politics, Brett Feinstein, who channeled his expertise into the campaign’s top-notch radio and television ads as well as adding his artistic talents to the print ads and mailers. Brett, who served in the administration of Governor George Allen and was formerly on the faculty of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, is well known for educating others in the art of campaign media, political strategy, message development, and advertising copywriting.

The senator’s son Chad headed up the sign team in the expansive 24th district, traveling throughout Augusta, Staunton, Waynesboro, and Rockingham on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Madison, Greene, and Culpeper on the eastern side. Hundreds of signs mushroomed across the district.

Our volunteers were invaluable — some familiar faces, some new ones, all welcomed — and they helped at the polls, in headquarters, with signs, writing letters to the editor, and whatever else was asked of them. Volunteers are the heart of any organization or group, and they certainly were for the Hanger campaign.

As for me, it was an honor to be asked by Senator Hanger to serve as campaign manager with such seasoned and dedicated pros who have years of experience in Virginia politics and who were instrumental in bringing about the decisive win. He ran a positive campaign, never turning negative on his opponents but, instead, informing constituents about his conservative legislative record even as the barrage of push polls continued from the Moxley camp along with false narratives from outside attack groups. He proved to be a Virginia gentleman, a work horse, and a family man all rolled into one. His love for the Commonwealth and desire to serve and do what is best for her citizens was evident as he discussed various pieces of legislation, explained why he voted a certain way, and was a consummate — and patient — listener to all who approached him. In his easy-going style, he gets things done.

In congratulating Hanger after his win, the Staunton News Leader offered some observations (see Our view: The political center holds):

… primaries remain much more preferable than nominating conventions.

Those are the big lessons from state Sen. Emmett Hanger’s resounding victory in Tuesday’s primary election.

Hanger won 60 percent of the vote, with Dan Moxley garnering 27.5 percent and Augusta County Board of Supervisor member Marshall Pattie receiving 12.

Those margins deflate any argument that Democrats voting in a Republican primary gave Hanger the win. He earned it himself by working hard and earning voter trust, year after year. He is a commonsense Republican, one unafraid of advocating for the good of all, even if it means pushing for Medicaid expansion.

Local results tell the tale. Augusta gave Hanger 64 percent, Moxley 21 percent and Pattie 15 percent. Still on his first term as an Augusta supervisor, Pattie proudly touted having never voted for a tax increase during his 18 months of hard campaigning. He came in a distant third, behind Hanger, the incumbent, and Moxley, a tea party favorite who barely campaigned.

What does that tell anyone willing to listen? That the no-new-taxes battle cry no longer resonates in a low-tax jurisdiction. Infrastructure, public safety and schools cost money. Starving those essential public services makes no sense.

Republican primary results throughout the state were similarly discouraging to tea partiers, despite the conventional wisdom that low turnout favors the extremes.

Political reporter Patricia Borns caught the senator’s thoughts Tuesday night at his election watch party at Staunton’s Clocktower Restaurant (see Hanger defends seat with GOP primary win):

“We as a community, a state and a nation have a lot of challenges in front of us, and they’re not going to be solved by partisan bickering,” Hanger said Tuesday night, speaking not only to the watch party in attendance but also to party factions that hoped to bring him down.

The News Leader editorial concluded by mirroring wide-spread thoughts about the Virginia Republican Party:

The GOP, which hasn’t won a statewide election since 2009, should listen closely. Letting the far right take over its state apparatus has hurt Republicans and further, as shown Tuesday, does not reflect GOP voters on the whole.

… we continue to favor primaries over caucuses. A convention may have given us Dan Moxley as the district’s next state Senator, and that is clearly not the will of the voters. Republicans would do well to remember that their last statewide convention gave us a slate so far right that Democrats swept the top statewide offices last year. A primary likely would have given us the governorship of Republican Bill Bolling.

We can hear the howling now, that Bolling isn’t conservative enough to be a Republican. The voters on Tuesday told us that the center holds. The center wins elections.

Congratulations, Emmett Hanger. You have served us well. The voters’ trust in you is well placed.



41Virginia League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Michael Town,  Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24th District); Hanger for Senate Campaign Consultant Boyd Marcus.

19Newspaper interview …

7Staunton City Councilwoman Andrea Oakes, Dr. Kurt Michael, Boyd Marcus, Michael Town




21Debbie Pyles, Augusta County Supervisor Tracy Pyles, Baldwin Jennings

22Long-time volunteer Barb Tillett

23(From left) Margaret Michael, Marcia Elliott, Bea Morris.

24… television interview …




33Senator Hanger addressed his election night watch party crowd after the Associated Press called the race for him.


39… another interview, this one with Tara Todd at NBC-29.


Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
June 9, 2015

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7 thoughts on “Behind Emmett Hanger’s winning strategy

  1. Joe Garber says:

    Thanks for posting! Hanger was at Art in the Park and very generously answered questions about the campaign. Joe

  2. […] the June 2015 Republican primary against two tea party opponents and garnering 60 percent of the vote was the first step for Augusta County Senator Emmett Hanger toward chairmanship of the powerful […]

  3. […] the June 2015 Republican primary against two tea party opponents and garnering 60 percent of the vote was the first step for Senator Hanger toward chairmanship. It would be a good fit due to his […]

  4. […] the primary, even as he was faced with false allegations from his opponent, he refused to go negative, […]

  5. […] the primary, even as he was faced with false allegations from his opponent, he refused to go negative, […]

  6. […] the primary, even as he was faced with false allegations from his opponent, he refused to go negative, […]

  7. […] District going into November’s general election. It wasn’t my first rodeo with him but, like last time when we worked together, it was an honor to once again be part of the team. Congratulations to our Virginia gentleman for […]

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