Senator Emmett Hanger is facing the most difficult primary challenge of his nearly 40-year long career.
But his campaign isn’t counting on conservative voters to get him re-elected in the overwhelmingly Republican district he represents.
Instead, Hanger’s campaign has been amping-up operations to turn out Democrats to help him hold onto his seat in the June 11th primary against Republican challenger Tina Frietas.
Challenged From the Right, Hanger Appeals to Democrats to Help Win his GOP Primary
In just under two weeks, Democrats could ultimately decide the outcome of one of the most hotly contested Republican primaries in Virginia.
Longtime incumbent Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24), is being primaried by challenger Tina Freitas.
Freitas, wife of Culpeper Delegate Nick Freitas, has run a campaign centered around Hanger’s vote for Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion in Virginia, as well as his history of voting for tax increases, opposing school choice legislation, and opposing strong 2nd Amendment legislation like Constitutional Carry.
Hanger has also recently come under fire by conservative activists for his vote with the Democrats to pass the “Equal Rights Amendment”, which opponents fear could enshrine taxpayer funding for abortion into the United States Constitution if ratified.
More recently, Hanger drew the wrath of conservatives across his district when he voted to oppose the Hyde Amendment in the 2018 budget, which would have blocked taxpayer funding for the abortion industry.
Hanger’s vote to send taxpayer funding for abortion centers led to him being censured by three of the Republican committees in his district: Culpeper, Madison, and Greene county.
After four years of “repeatedly” voting with Democrats on key issues in the words of the Culpeper County Republican Committee, Hanger is now facing one of the largest conservative revolts in the history of Virginia politics.
And Tina Freitas’ campaign has spent months reminding Republican primary voters about Hanger’s record on each of these issues, which Freitas cites as her core reasons for running against Hanger in the June 11th primary.
But Hanger’s campaign isn’t focused on winning over Republican voters in his overwhelmingly Republican district.
He’s apparently relying on Democrats to bail him out of such a hotly contested race.
With Republicans turning on Hanger after years of watching him vote with Democrats on taxes, the 2nd amendment, abortion, and Obamacare, Hanger’s campaign is now trying an unusual tactic for a Republican seeking the Republican nomination in an overwhelmingly conservative district.
Hanger’s campaign is betting on Democrats coming out to vote in the Republican primary for him.
And Democrats are more than willing to oblige.
Democrats Organize to Knock Doors for Sen. Hanger
New Virginia Press has obtained multiple examples of Hanger’s campaign courting Democratic voters, and Democrats encouraging one another to vote for him in the Republican Primary.
“We really owe a debt to Senator Emmett Hanger. He got Medicaid Expansion passed. I am very grateful to him for that. We need more legislators like Emmett Hanger,” wrote one Democrat on a Facebook post discussing the upcoming 24th Senate District primary.
“What can we do to help him? I fear that Republicans will be turned off by a ‘bunch of Democrats’ canvassing for him,” writes another Democrat.
“If we don’t say anything nobody will know we are Dems. Let’s call his campaign and ask if they would like our help.”
Screenshots of the conversation were obtained by New Virginia Press, and the names of the Democrats were withheld to protect their privacy.
One of the Democrats in the conversation served as a founding member of “Indivisible NOVA West”, a far-left group dedicated to electing socialists to public office.
Their profile picturesfeature former Democratic President Barack Obama, as well as the logo of the socialist advocacy group “Justice Democrats”, which was credited with helping to elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Congress in 2018.
It’s unclear whether the Hanger campaign has accepted their help, but a recent analysis of the 24th District showed that nearly 2,000 Democrats showed up to vote for Hanger in the 2015 Republican Primary, the last time Hanger faced his conservative constituency for re-election.
These Democrats accounted for over 25% of the Republican primary vote in the City of Staunton alone.
Those Democrats played a critical role in helping to secure Hanger’s re-nomination, a fact which the Culpeper County Democratic committee openly admitted.
“In the 24th State Senate Race, Republican, Emmett Hanger is running unopposed because Democrats came out in the Republican primary to make sure he won the nomination. He votes 90% of the time as a Democrat would in that seat,” the Culpeper County Democratic Committee wrote on their Facebook page after Hanger won his previous primary challenge in 2015.
Since then, Hanger has given Democrats even more reasons to support him by voting with their party’s priorities. In the past four years, Hanger has:
- Joined with Democrats to twice kill School Choice legislation.
- Voted with the Democrats to place then-Governor Terry McAuliffe’s personal pick on the Virginia Supreme Court
- Voted twice to defeat Constitutional Carry.
- Push through Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion in 2018.
- Cast the deciding vote to defeat a budget amendment blocking taxpayer funding of the abortion industry in 2018.
Hanger has also served as the deciding vote to defeat the Hyde Amendment which conservative activists argue would have prevented the transfer of millions of taxpayer dollars to the abortion lobby, including Planned Parenthood.
And he voted with the Democrats’ attempt to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which conservative critics have challenged would help codify taxpayer funding of abortion into the US Constitution.
Hanger has not been shy about recruiting Democratic support in his re-election bid. In a mail piece obtained by New Virginia Press, Hanger is seen openly courting Democrats to vote for him in the Republican Primary.
“Without Senator Hanger, 400,000 Virginians could lose their healthcare,” warns the mail piece, referring to Senator Hanger’s vote to expand Obamacare in Virginia last year, a move which was championed by Democrats and opposed by nearly all of Senator Hanger’s Republican colleagues.
More telling, the mailer explicitly mentions that Democrats are eligible to vote in the Republican Primary.
“All registered voters can vote in the Republican Primary!” the mailer declares, explaining the process it would take for a Democrat to cast a ballot for Hanger to be the Republican nominee.
The mail piece itself highlights Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion as a key reason for re-electing Hanger to office, despite the massive conservative opposition to the move which helped to prompt Tina Freitas’ primary challenge to Hanger in the first place.
This isn’t the first time that Hanger has courted Democratic support, or that Democrats have openly cheered on Senator Hanger.
Labor Unions, Planned Parenthood, Virginia Democrats Praise Hanger
In Richmond, Hanger is routinely supported by Democrats for his votes to defeat legislation to expand gun rights, restrict taxpayer funding of abortions, raise taxes, and expand Obamacare.
After passing Obamacare Expansion in 2018, the Democrat-friendly Government workers union SEIU praised Hanger.
“Thank you @Emmett_Hanger for your courage and your dedication to fighting alongside working people for #MedicaidExpansion!” tweeted SEIU Virginia shortly after Obamacare Expansion passed with Hanger’s support.
When Hanger was the decisive vote to defeat a budget amendment that would have blocked taxpayer funding for abortions, Democratic activists covering the events at the Virginia capital tweeted Hanger’s opposition to the measure.
Hanger was ultimately the only Republican to vote against the amendment, ensuring its defeat and enabling abortion providers to collect taxpayer dollars from Obamacare Expansion.
Hanger’s vote for Obamacare Expansion was also praised by multiple Democrats, both state legislators and Congressional candidates.
Shortly before the 2018 midterm elections, Democratic Congressional Candidate Jennifer Lewis attacked Republican Ben Cline for his opposition to Obamacare, using Emmett Hanger’s vote for Obamacare Expansion as justification to do so.
Cline went on to win the election and now represents much of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District.
Wexton went on to be elected to Congress later that year and now serves in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, centered in Northern Virginia.
After Hanger successfully voted with the Democrats to pass Obamacare Expansion, Democratic Senate Minority leader Dick Saslaw praised Hanger in a public press conference.
He celebrating Hanger’s budget vote and his role in pushing through Obamacare Expansion, saying, “I can’t say enough good things about Emmett Hanger…we ought to never forget that.”
Saslaw and Norment went on to shake hands at the bill signing, where now disgraced Democratic Governor Ralph Northam signed Obamacare Expansion into law.
Hanger himself ended up embracing Governor Northam at the event, and celebrated with Democratic Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.
Should Hanger prevail in the June 11th Primary, all signs point to the fact that Democratic support could be critical in deciding the outcome.
Tina Freitas has been attacking Hanger for recruiting the opposing party to support him in his bid for the GOP nod. The election will be held on Tuesday, June 11th and will reveal whose tactics will win out.