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Virginia Politics
With Lt. Gov. John H. Hager

Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Surprising many observers, Virginia Lt. Gov. John H. Hager announced that he is staying in the GOP race for the gubernatorial nomination and will battle Attorney General Mark L. Earley at the party convention in June. (Read today's article.)

Hager, who was elected to the state's No. 2 job in 1997, made a reputation as a tireless campaigner, crisscrossing the state to meet his constituents. In 1997, he visited each county in the state in a two-month period. This year, he has continued to maintain an active travel schedule leading up to the convention, where he trails by hundreds of delegates.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


washingtonpost.com: Thanks for joining us today, John Hager. To start, can you offer us some insight into why you considered dropping out, and what persuaded you to stay in the governor's race?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: I considered dropping out for two reasons: the party rules changed, and they had a flaw in the call for the convention, and my opponent kept declaring victory without having any ballots cast. So I decided I would go ask the people of Va. what they thought. I traveled for 8 days, and found that they wanted a true conservative to run for governor, someone who could compete with the Democrat, Mark Warner. So it was the strength of the people that convinced me to go forward.

Washington, D.C.: You are fond of calling yourself a consistent conservative, but what does this mean? Is this a dig at Earley?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: What it means is that I'm consistent across the board. On the right to life, the right to work, property rights, 2nd Amendment rights -- all of those rights and freedoms that Virginians hold so dear. I would suggest that people make their own minds up about Mr. Earley's positions on such issues as the right to work and 2nd Amendment. Certain organizations involved in those issues have expressed concerns about his positions.

Fairfax: What about accusations that your run is splitting the GOP? Are a spoiler? Are you the Ralph Nader or John McCain of the Va. governor's race?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: This is America. Competition built America. I don't know why any candidate should fear competition, whether it be within the party or in November. If this is splitting the party, then I guess it's an inevitability of success to have multiple candidates capable of leading.

Washington, D.C.: Your public declaration two weeks ago that you were considering dropping back seems like a bad tactical move, given that you didn't. Couldn't you have mulled this quietly, without letting the public know? Don't you think it makes you look less than serious about the gubernatorial race?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: There was no such declaration -- it was all the assumption on behalf of the press. If you can tell me how to control the press, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.

College Park: What's your agenda for Virginia when elected Governor and how do you plan to counter the "big" leadership support for the attorney general?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: First I'd like to say that I have a tremendous amount of "big" leadership support as well. We don't have time right here to list the thousands of Virginians from all walks of life who support John Hager. My agenda is clear: The top two priorities are education and transportation. I have visited a school nearly every single week since I was inaugurated lieutenant governor. I have listened and learned and continue to work very hard for the educational system of our state. I was the vice chairman of the transportation policy commission, and Gov. Gilmore has embraced many of our recommendations for the betterment of transportation in Virginia.

Arlington, VA: You say that you are more conservative than your Republican opponent. How would such conservative do in the general election against self-styled moderate Mark Warner? In other words, why are you more electable than Earley?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: I have a reputation as a bridge-builder. I was a businessman all my career and have great ties with the business community in Virginia. So the broad appeal goes along with being a true conservative, Virginia-style, and I feel like I can appeal to a much broader coalition, including conservative Democrats and independents -- the same coalition that enabled George Allen to gain his significant victory last November.

Williamsburg, VA: Virginia's death penalty system has taken one hit after another in the past year. Given the problems inherent in the courts and procedural rules, what does a governor need to do to ensure that all inmates get fair hearings in the courts? Is the politicized clemency process enough? Also, what are your views on Virginia's Supermax prisons and the importation of other states' prisoners?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: I was a member of the DNA task force on the state crime commission, and the recommendations that were turned into legislation during the 2001 session of the Va. General Assembly regarding the storage of evidence, the testing of biological evidence and the "writ of actual innocence," which were all pieces of the legislative package that was signed by the governor recently, and should go far to help strengthen the criminal justice system in Virginia.

Silver Spring, MD: How would you work with Maryland to solve regional transportation problems?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: That is a great question. I would hope that some of the initiatives that were taken with the Md. legislature last year could be expanded and that we could sit down and seek resolution of some of the differences between the two states. There's not much more to say -- It's a tough impasse, situation -- you just have to try hard to resolve the differences, and I would seek to take a leadership role.

Arlington, VA: Lt. Gov. Hager,
Many have said that party unity will be important for our fellow Republicans to win in November. Why, in you news conference yesterday, did you come out and attack Mark Earley? Don't you think this only hurts us in the long run? Will you pledge not to attack Mark Earley in the remaining weeks before our convention?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: I would have to know what you perceive to be an attack on Mark Earley. I was very factual in my statement yesterday, and I have a high regard for Mark Earley. But there are differences on issues between us, and I think the people of Virginia deserve to have the opportunity to hear us debate.

Alexandria, VA: Can you list three issues where you and the Attorney General differ?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: I don't think it's so much a difference in our goals on the issues as it is in process. I take a business-like approach and believe in prioritization, whereas he takes more of a legalistic approach. The fact is, I would love to have an opportunity to share my position on any issue you want to talk about and hear his views on the same.

Montclair, VA: I moved to Virginia 3 years ago. I feel that because of the one-term limitation, the governor has no incentive to build coalitions or think beyond short term political advantage that will position him for a US Senatorial campaign. That explains Gov. Gilmore's refusal to work with his own party leaders in the state Senate. Would you do things differently? Should the constitution be amended to allow for two or more terms?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: If the constitution were to be amended, it certainly would change the way any governor approaches the job, but I really don't expect that to happen any time soon because the one-term limit is only one part of a complex system of differences in government that we have in Virginia, compared to other states. I'm not going to run for anything after being governor of Virginia, and perhaps that gives me a better opportunity to govern the way Virginians expect.

Tyson's Corner: Will we be seeing any debates prior to the convention?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: I hope so. Ask Mark Earley -- I'm ready.

Haymarket, VA: Other than the ceremonial post of Lt. Governor, what leadership experience do you have that legitimately qualifies you to be the Governor of the Commonwealth?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: My background is extensive. Service in the military, hands-on operating experience in the corporate world for 32 years, civic charity and community leadership throughout Virginia, including being president or chairman of 30 different organizations. Extensive political experience as a volunteer. Service as chairman or co-chairman of 5 commissions last year. Southern sector chairman of the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors. Membership on the Southern Growth Policies Board, an elder in my church, etc.

3rd Potomac Crossing: Where do you stand on a 3rd bridge between the Cabin John, and Point of Rocks?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: Under very careful circumstances, I would be in favor of the techway, because I think it would relieve some serious congestion, provide access to jobs and help stimulate the economy.

Staunton, VA: I'm a die-hard Republican, but I will not support any candidate who supports the continuation of this SOL lunacy. How much money do you estimate has already been spent on this boondoggle, and do you intend to scrap the Sols?

Lt. Gov. John H. Hager: I'm not at a place where I can give you an exact number on how much has been spent, but I believe the SOLs are getting the attention of the establishment in education and are making a difference in the performance of our students. Therefore, I do not intend to scrap the system.


That was our last question today. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

© Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company


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