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Latest General Assembly retirement contributes to generational change

Emmett Hanger speaking in 2018
VCU Capital News Service
Sen. Emmett Hanger (R–Augusta) speaks during the 2018 General Assembly session.

Sen. Emmett Hanger announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection.

New shifting legislative boundaries and demographics are contributing to a raft of state officials announcing their retirements.

Sen. Emmett Hanger (R–Augusta) said Thursday that he would not seek reelection this fall.

Hanger posted a statement to his social media accounts elaborating on the decision — namely, because he doesn’t live within the new bounds of his district.

“While I currently represent, or have represented in the past, at least half of the new Senate District 3, I do not live within those boundaries,” he wrote. “Where I have lived all of my life, went to school, college, commanded a National Guard Infantry Company, my Church, my Ruritan Club, my business, where 6 of my 16 grandchildren live; in essence ‘my community’, are all in Senate District 2.”

If he would have decided to run in 2nd Senate District, where he currently lives, Hanger would have been up against Sen. Mark Obenshain (R–Rockingham) in the primary. Hanger — who has served in the Virginia Senate since 1996 — is the 11th member of that body to announce they won’t seek another term.

"That is an immense change in the Legislature — much larger than we've seen in many other cycles,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a politics professor at the University of Mary Washington.

A handful of races are pitting political veterans against members of their own party following reapportionment and could spur additional retirements ahead of the June primaries.

Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D–Portsmouth), who could become the lone senator elected during the 1990s, faces Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D–Chesapeake) in the 18th Senate District primary. Spruill has represented the 5th Senate District since 2016 and previously served in the House of Delegates.

Farnsworth said the generational shift comes with an ideological one, too: Moderates no longer hold sway in Richmond.

“What you're going to see, I think, in the Virginia Senate next cycle will be much less compromise,” Farnsworth said. “It will look more like the House, which is more ideological than the Senate. And it will look more like Congress, which is — of course — more ideological in Washington.”

Virginia’s primaries are set for June and all 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for grabs in November.

Dave Cantor has been an editor with VPM News since 2022, juggling daily digital and broadcast stories.
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