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Hager elected to lead state Republican Party
Mr. Hager, 70, narrowly defeated party executive director Charlie Judd on the second ballot, winning 41 votes to Mr. Judd’s 39 and one for Virginia Beach party chairman Chuck Smith. No candidate mustered the required first-ballot majority.
“We will move forward together, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s Mark Warner or [his successor, Gov.] Timothy M. Kaine or any other Democrat, we’re going to beat them all,” Mr. Hager told cheering members of the Republican Party’s ruling central committee after he was declared the winner.
The balloting was civil despite weeks of intense behind-the-scenes deal-making and arm-twisting among committee members.
Mr. Hager, who lost a bitter nomination battle for governor to Mark L. Earley at the 2001 Republican state convention, told the committee before the vote he would reconcile the party’s quarreling factions.
“I’ve seen it in Washington, and I’m fed up. I want to see us move forward together. I remember that old song, ‘We Are Family,’ and I think we are a family, so we need to act like it,” Mr. Hager said.
Mr. Hager’s service from 2002 into 2004 in Mr. Warner's Cabinet as the state’s first commonwealth preparedness director was a point Mr. Judd’s allies used to line up votes within the committee, several of its members said.
“My message simply is this: I want to say Mark Warner: buckle up, the free ride is over,” he said.
Mr. Warner defeated Mr. Earley in 2001, ending a string of Democratic losses through the 1990s, which by 2000 left every statewide elected office, both houses of the General Assembly, both U.S. Senate seats and a majority of the state’s 11 U.S. House seats in Republican hands.
Mr. Hager left Mr. Warner’s administration in April 2004 as a legislative battle over tax restructuring and recovering from $6 billion in budget shortfalls came to a head. At the time, Mr. Hager said he promised Mr. Warner only two years and that his departure was only to pursue other options, which he did not define. He went to work for the federal Department of Education seven months later.
“We worked very well during his administration in homeland security. He didn’t bother me a whole lot, I didn’t bother him a whole lot,” he said. “When Mark Warner, over two years later, proposed the tax increase, I resigned. I did not back him on the tax increase proposal.”
By Donald Lambro
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