Mark Earley won a convincing victory Saturday over John Hager to capture the Republican nomination for governor at the party's state convention.

Earley, the state attorney general, won the right to face Democrat Mark Warner in the fall and the burden of keeping the governor's office in GOP hands for a third straight term.

Earley clinched the nomination by a ratio of about 3 to 1 delegate votes, according to Republican officials involved in the counting. A total of 4,318 was needed to win.

In taking the party's mantle, Earley and the party moved aggressively into a race that Warner, uncontested for the Democratic nomination in a June 12 primary, has had all to himself while Earley and Hager fought an edgy but civil battle.

"If they speak of fear, I will speak of hope," Earley, 46, said in a two-minute nominating speech. "If they speak of distortions, I will speak of the truth. ... They may knock me down, but I will get up."

Hager, the 64-year-old lieutenant governor, ended a yearlong race in which he was constantly the underdog, a parallel to his own life and the polio that put him in a wheelchair in 1973.

In the end, Hager cast his quest to be the party's "consistent conservative" standard-bearer as a David vs. Goliath fight. Hager traveled more than 30,000 miles, mostly by car, across Virginia in his nomination effort.

"You know, I've been to your towns so many times the dogs don't even bark any more," Hager told the delegates.

And in emphasizing his years of work for the party, mostly behind the scenes, he took a potshot at his younger rival.

"I was a national convention delegate for Ronald Reagan in Detroit in 1980, seven years before my distinguished opponent left the Democratic Party," Hager said. Earley was elected to the state Senate in 1987 as a Republican.