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One week before the April 6 filing deadline, Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, has yet to make up his mind whether he will seek his party’s nomination in a newly created 3rd state Senate district.
But on Thursday, some residents in Botetourt County and Roanoke County, which are located in the new district but outside Hanger’s current district, received a mailer from Hanger’s campaign boasting the headline “Senator Emmett Hanger – Honest Conservative Leadership.”
On the back, the mailer lists Hanger’s accomplishments during 27 years in the Senate. It also includes a QR code, inviting constituents to offer their feedback – all telltale signs that Hanger has jumpstarted his reelection campaign.
But not so fast, Hanger said in a brief phone interview with Cardinal News on Thursday. He added that he has yet to decide to run again or whether he will join his longtime colleagues Sen. Steve Newman, R-Botetourt County, and Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, who announced their retirements earlier this month.
“It’s more like a primer to see what kind of response we’re getting,” Hanger said of the mailer. When asked if a decision is imminent, Hanger shrugged it off. “This is going to go right up until the deadline,” he said.
Hanger faces a dilemma that is not unique in an election year, when all 140 legislative seats on the ballot are running in recently redrawn district maps. In the state Senate, 20 of the 40 senators are paired with one or more fellow legislators while 11 districts have been drawn with no incumbent.
For example, the Virginia Supreme Court in December 2021 approved a new map that paired Newman in the same district as Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, which may be the reason why Newman decided to hand over the seat without a fight and retire.
The special masters who crafted the maps also paired Hanger in the same district as Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham County. Like Newman, Hanger decided to not challenge his Republican colleague, but he is openly considering moving somewhere else in Augusta County that would put him in the open-seat 3rd district that runs south to Roanoke County.
However, under this scenario Hanger would be facing Del. Chris Head, R-Botetourt County, who announced last year that he would seek his party’s nomination in that Senate district.
Hanger has plenty of money for an extensive primer campaign. By the end of 2022, he had more than $118,000 cash on hand, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit tracking money in politics. But what he doesn’t have is time.
In a statement, Head said Thursday that “throughout my entire career in the House of Delegates, I have championed the causes that matter most to my friends and neighbors from Roanoke County to Staunton and Waynesboro: standing for the principles of limited government, protecting our 2nd Amendment rights, and defending the unborn. I look forward to continuing to serve my Commonwealth and my community as Senator in Virginia’s 3rd District.”