Monday, May 21, 2007

Weekly Podium: "The Sayre Supporters: A Third Party Perspective

Cross-posted at The New Dominion

The race for the GOP nomination in the 24th Senate District is hotter than the Shenandoah Valley in early August. Emmett Hanger, the incumbent, is facing a challenge from what appears to be a viable contender in businessman Scott Sayre. This race is receiving a lot of attention from the local media, and has stirred a lot of controversy amongst the political blogs of Virginia.

Now, as many people know, I don’t really have a horse in this race. While all the state elections will have an some sort of an effect on me, I don’t live in the 24th District. However, given the intensity of the race, the district’s geographical proximity to me, and the fact that my editor at The New Dominion, Chris Graham, has been accused of having a “pro-Hanger” agenda…I have no choice but to succumb to the temptation to make observations and give my two cents.

Sayre has the support of a large majority of the local party chairs in the district. He also has a group of bloggers that have subsequently called themselves “Bloggers4Sayre”. Coincidentally (or maybe not), most of the members of Bloggers4Sayres are also part of a larger conglomerate known as “CASTLE” (which stands for Conservatives Against Short-sighted Truth-challenged Liberal Elites, in case you didn’t know). This group is very much a right-wing bunch. Pro-military, small government, low taxes, and so on. There is nothing wrong with this, and in a “policy position” sense, I can agree with them on quite a few issues.

The Bloggers4Sayre have made it their mission to get Scott Sayre nominated over 12-year incumbent Emmett Hanger. They have built their case against Hanger on three main points, as well as few peripheral issues.

Their first point is built upon the fact that Hanger voted for Mark Warner’s tax increase in 2004, even though the state had a budget surplus. Sayre, in opposing fashion, is one of many nominees in the state of Virginia who have signed a “No-Tax Pledge”, which states that if they do get elected to office, they will never raise taxes. Hanger’s tax increase vote has allowed these pro-Sayre bloggers to give him the not-so-flattering label of a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only).

The second key issue in the case against Emmett Hanger surrounds the amount of out-of-district funding he is receiving. The latest campaign finance reports (for the quarter ending on 03/31) showed that Hanger was receiving the vast majority of his campaign donations from outside of the district (most of which came from a special interest group in Northern Virginia), where Sayre was receiving almost all of his money from within the district. Sayre supporters believe that this is an indicator that Sayre is gaining traction within the district amongst voters.

The third main issue the pro-Sayre bloggers have brought up is Hanger’s remarks about how grassroots workers are “insignificant“. Naturally, the local GOP chairs, the campaign “street teams”, and the Republican bloggers have taken offense to being considered not important enough to worry about…and basically considered to be not influential in the outcome of an election. I read Sen. Hanger’s remarks, and it seems he has both praised and criticized the grassroots. Personally, I would think that a man who has been in office as long as Hanger has should know not to say anything bad about those who bust their backsides, only to receive little or nothing in return (other than their candidate‘s possible victory).

Hanger’s statements that the Sayre supporters were a fringe group of “anti-tax” and “anti-government extremists” did not sit well with this group. I can’t believe it has sat well with many conservatives, who I would think would want taxes lowered or eliminated if necessary.

The pro-Sayre bloggers do have some valid points, and they have done a fantastic job of getting their nominee-of-preference some name recognition amongst the general Virginia blogosphere, which is normally focused on the Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Tidewater Regions when it comes to which campaigns to focus on.

However, I have noticed some things that are a bit, well, odd to say the least.

The first oddity is that there seems to be a bit of a divide between Sayre and the bloggers that support him. Sayre runs on his anti-tax platform, he shows up at various events, and he takes a very measured approach to how he goes about campaigning. He talks about what he stands for, and focuses on his platforms in a fairly positive sense.

Meanwhile, it seems that the bloggers that support him take a bit more of a maverick approach to obtaining their goal of getting Sayre nominated. Their general objective is to “reveal the true Emmett Hanger”. While Sayre tells us why we should vote for him, the bloggers are supposedly telling us why we shouldn’t vote for Hanger.

To use such a two-sided approach isn’t necessarily a bad way to go about running a campaign. However, there are some questions about the nature in which the pro-Sayre bloggers have gone about making their claims about Hanger.

While the claims of Hanger receiving a large percentage of his campaign money from outside the district, there are those who find it hypocritical that they bring up this topic. The reason behind this is because approximately half of the Sayre bloggers reside outside of the district as well. While it is hard to compare outside money to outside verbal support…there is enough relation between the two that the pro-Sayre bloggers should not be surprised when they come under fire for this.

Another reason these Sayre supporters have come under fire is due to a misperception of influence that they have in the Virginia political spectrum. To their credit, these bloggers have done an excellent job of creating a lot of commotion for their cause. They’ve created a sizeable enough network of bloggers to bounce back-and-forth between each other’s sites and comment on each other’s posts.

What this does is increase the amount of internet traffic they generate. Aggregators like “BlogNetNews” use various methods to track this information in an attempt to gauge the amount of influence each blog has in the state of Virginia, as related to other blogs. By moving themselves higher up in the influence category, they also attract new readers to their various blogs, thus spreading their messages of support for Scott Sayre to a lot of people.

Some bloggers, however, have taken some offense to this…as they feel it creates an unfair representation of the true influence these Sayre supporters have in the digital world of Virginia politics. The fact that the Sayre bloggers are unabashedly proud of their influence rankings does add fuel to the animosity held against them.

Personally, I can’t blame them for doing what they‘ve done in that regard. If you’ve got a group of people who are all supporting a cause, you do as much as you can to spread your message. While it may not be the most honest representation of their true influence…you have to give these bloggers credit for figuring out “the system” and making the most of their opportunity.

However, once again, they should be so surprised and defensive when they come under fire for what others feel is a misrepresentation of their influence (or importance). Nor should they be so quick to throw out accusations of “having a pro-Hanger agenda” when someone questions their actions.

I'm not here to make judgments on the actions of either the Hanger campaign or the Sayre campaign. What I am doing is passing along observations of what I've seen over the past couple of months.

In short, I’ve found this whole campaign to be an interesting study in internet politics. You’ve got a group of people dedicated to a cause, and are doing everything in their power to promote that cause. At the same time, they need to realize that with the spotlight will come criticism. If that criticism isn’t handled correctly, it could very well cause serious damage to the cause they support.


Phil Chroniger said...

Let me also state that I do find Scott Sayre to be a fine candidate in his own right, and emphasize that I'm simply observing things as they have unfolded in front of me.

I'd like to think I actually have a good relationship with most of these pro-Sayre bloggers.

Spank That Donkey said...

I took exception to your boss Chris Graham's characterization of us B4S crew walking on the 'nasty side', by simply doing some photo shopping of a Exxon Gas sign and turning it into Emmett Gas to highlight his vote for a 5% wholesale gasoline tax.

Here is the big story, the MSM won't let that fact pass their lips! Now what do we call that again, I forget?

Muchless Hanger's inattention to fully funding our State Troopers in Augusta County to interdict all the metamphetamine trafficking.

All we get is a bunch of sniping. We don't expect everyone to agree with us, but we must be doing a good job with all the acrimonious comments we are getting from anonymous commenters on our individual blogs and B4S.

When you're "Spanking That Donkey", you're not hitting em hard enough if the whole state can't hear the heeeee, haaawwws!

Phil Chroniger said...

As I said, I'm simply speaking from a 3rd party, "the good and the bad" POV.

When I brought up your issues with Chris, I was referring to the fact that by making yourselves so "high profile", it does attract attention, and your group may come under scrutiny for what some may feel may be hypocritical statements.

But, whether or not it is hypocritical is all in the perception of the person making the claims, really.

As for the MSM, I don't get to read the outlets out of Waynesboro and Staunton much, as I'm further north of you guys. In fact, The New Dominion is my most common source for news stories out of that area.

As I've said, I'm neutral on this. I'm represented by Mark Obenshain, and I sit on the border with Russ Potts' old district (I never was a Potts fan).

I'm simply showing both sides of the equation from a third party perspective.

Mad Hatter said...


SWACko and JMax won't post my legitimate comments. I do not post comments anonymously, nor do I use inflammatory speech.. I merely poke holes in their theories with logic. Until they stop moderating all of my comments into the abyss, your group will not have my respect. I'm not trying to be rude, but I strongly dislike it when I take time to comment on a site and the comment is never allowed to see the light of day.

Mad Hatter said...

And Phil, whats up with moderating your comments? Don't tell me you've turned into one of them!

Phil Chroniger said...

I moderate simply because I get a lot of inflammatory crap from anonymous users and such.

Don't worry, I let comments see the light of day, even if they disagree with me.

Spank That Donkey said...

You're full of it! SWAC GIRL, and Max allow all comments that are fit to print. Just because the crew you care to associate with could care less about profanity and all kinds of lewd language, doesn't mean others are not offended by it.

Phil C:
I see you have had a belly full of Left wing anonymous flame throwers too.

Phil Chroniger said...

STD, you should realize that I associate myself with the Whackjob crew. I'm pretty neutral in this beef between DWJ and SWAC, simply because I've had no reason to really pick a side.

I've had some anonymous right-wing flame-throwers hit my site, too...though after I enabled comment moderation. Apparently, for a few people, I'm not right-wing enough to be of any use to the world...go figure.