Saturday, May 12, 2007


Darden advising Sayre
The News Virginian
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"Political junkie" John Darden is now chief of staff for District 24 challenger Scott Sayre.

John Darden got his feet wet in politics as a Norfolk elementary student, campaigning for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964.
Four decades later, the 53-year-old former Albermarle County GOP chair and self-described “political junkie” is a whirlwind of activity.
Darden is currently managing three Albemarle County political campaigns, including those of incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Camblos, Republican Sheriff’s candidate Chip Harding and GOP Clerk of Court candidate John Dawson.
Of local interest is Darden’s work as a strategist and chief of staff for Senate District 24 Republican challenger Scott Sayre.Sayre is seeking to unseat incumbent Sen. Emmett Hanger.
The two candidates will face off in a June 12 GOP primary.“The last eight or nine years, I’ve looked at the person more,’’ said Darden, who runs a successful rent-to-own business in Charlottesville.
Of Sayre, Darden says, “he breeds confidence.”
Darden said voters are impressed with his business background, his degree from VMI and his stand on the issues, including not raising taxes and strict rules on immigration.
Darden said he became involved in the Sayre campaign after his son Chris, Waynesboro’s Republican chair, said of Sayre, “he’s the kind of candidate you’ve been looking for.”
Of Hanger, Darden said he is not right on the issues and has lost touch with constituents and others in his district.
“Former office holders have told me they never had contact with Hanger,’’ Darden said. “Now they are getting a phone call. There is a disconnect.”
Hanger, the incumbent, has helpers but is managing his own campaign.
He said the Sayre campaign continues to engage in hardball politics, and has misrepresented his stand on taxes.
“The latest ads say I’m proposing to raise taxes. It’s a very fraudulent ad,’’ said Hanger who said he is determined to get his message out.
Darden’s rise in Albemarle County Republican circles came during the start of former Virginia Gov. and U.S. Sen. George Allen’s political career.
Darden was involved in Allen’s 1982 run for the Virginia House of Delegates as an Albemarle County resident.
And last October, it was Darden who tackled liberal blogger Mike Stark at Charlottesville’s Omni Hotel after Stark aggressively questioned Allen about his first marriage.
After Darden restrained Stark, the two men fell to the hotel lobby floor and came close to crashing into a plate glass window.
The case was investigated by the Charlottesville Police Department and the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney did not press charges against Darden.
Darden said there was no intent to harm Stark, and said, “I was just trying to protect Sen. Allen.”
Darden said he tried to block Stark, and then asked him to leave.
“He started to pursue me, and I decided to take him down. He was clearly the aggressor. I was trying to protect a man I feel a great deal for,’’ he said.
Former Albemarle Del. Pete Way, who served in the House of Delegates from 1993 to 1999, notes Darden’s passion for politics and conservative causes.
“He’s been involved in campaigns for 25 years or so and definitely knows what he is doing,’’ Way said.
He said Darden’s fiscal conservatism and disdain for Hanger’s support of a 2004 state sales tax increase were other motivations for his interest in the Hanger-Sayre primary race.
“Come election time he has been very helpful and was very supportive of me in the House,’’ Way said.
Darden said the next five weeks provide a tough challenge for Sayre.
“We see momentum but we’ve got five weeks to go,’’ he said.Darden said he expects the primary to be close and with a relatively low turnout.
“He’s been involved in politics 30 years and people know him,’’ Darden said of Hanger’s political experience.
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