Emmett Hanger survived one of the toughest tests of his long political career last Tuesday, overcoming a challenge from the right in the Republican primary for the 24th Senatorial District.
Hanger, 70, of Mount Solon, defeated Tina Freitas of Culpeper to win the Republican nomination for a chance at a seventh four-year state Senate term representing the district, which consists of the cities of Waynesboro and Staunton, the counties of Greene, Augusta and Madison and parts of Rockingham and Culpeper counties.
Districtwide, Hanger received 11,122 votes to Freitas’ 8,268, about a 57.4% to 42.6% split, based on unofficial results as reported by the Virginia Department of Elections. He will face Democrat Annette Hyde of Madison County during the Nov. 5 general election.
“It was very gratifying the show of support today,” said Hanger, speaking last Tuesday night from a victory celebration at The Depot Grille in Staunton. “Obviously, it was a very tough campaign. … A very good feeling coming out as the victor.”
Looking forward to the general election, Hanger said he wouldn’t give his full attention to the campaign in full force until after Labor Day. He promised to promote a legislative agenda that will include further work on mental health and health care reforms, including implementing the next phase of that Medicaid expansion.
Hanger said he also wants to continue efforts on minimizing the gerrymandering of legislative districts.
There was no local Democratic primary because the party’s nominations for the state Senate and House of Delegates had already been determined.
Arguably, one of the most watched primary races in Virginia pitted longtime incumbent Hanger against Freitas, who hammered away at the Augusta County lawmaker’s record, contending his votes on Medicaid expansion, gun bills and taxes were too liberal for the district.
Hanger mounted a spirited counterattack, claiming Freitas wildly distorted his voting record in her campaign to keep him from retaining the seat he’s held since winning the office in 1995.
Ultimately, Freitas’ challenge failed to gain the needed traction among Hanger’s more populous home turf to win. Freitas earned 54.8% of Greene County voters’ support, while Hanger earned 45.3%. She carried every precinct in Greene. The number of voters was underwhelming at only 9.5% of the registered voters, or 1,261 of 13,256, yet higher than the 5% that voted in the last 24th District Senate race in 2015—only 5%.
Freitas scored well at home, winning Culpeper County 1,274 votes to 547, and also won the majority of the vote in Madison County. Hanger came out on top in Rockingham County by more than 400 votes.
This year’s general election, in which every seat in both the state Senate and House is up for grabs, figures to be hotly contested. The GOP holds control of both chambers, but by just two seats in each body.
Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, will face Dyke resident Elizabeth Acorn for the 58th House of Delegates seat in November.