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The lieutenant governor said his decision hinged on money and loyalty to the Republican Party.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling ruled out an independent bid for Virginia governor, clearing the way for a one-on-one major-party showdown in November.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
RICHMOND — In the end, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s decision to stay out of the 2013 governor’s race came down to money, party loyalty and a growing distaste for cutthroat partisan politics.
Bolling ended months of speculation about his political plans Tuesday by announcing in an email that he won’t make an independent bid for governor. His decision means that the November election likely will be a contest between Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s hard-charging attorney general, and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who flopped as a candidate for governor in 2009.
Bolling had left open the possibility of an independent candidacy since dropping his bid for the Republican nomination in November. The two-term lieutenant governor conceded then that he could not defeat Cuccinelli in a state convention dominated by ideologically driven conservatives. And he questioned whether Cuccinelli, a favorite of tea party activists, could attract broad support as the leader of a statewide ticket.
In his email announcement Tuesday, Bolling said he spent the past three months “trying to objectively assess the feasibility” of an independent campaign.
“I am confident that I could have run a credible and competitive campaign and made a positive contribution to the public debate,” wrote Bolling, who did not grant interviews Tuesday.
But Bolling said raising the $10 million to $15 million he would need to run a viable campaign would have been “a very difficult thing to do without the resources of a major political party and national donors at your disposal.”
“You can have a winning message, but if you don’t have the resources to effectively communicate that message to voters you cannot win,” he wrote.
Bolling said he also was unwilling to sever ties with the Republican Party after a political career that began on the Hanover County Board of Supervisors and continued in the Virginia Senate before his 2005 election to statewide office.
Bolling, who did not make an endorsement Tuesday, said many of his friends “have encouraged me to not give up on the Republican Party and continue working to get our party back on a more mainstream course.”
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted last month had Cuccinelli and McAuliffe deadlocked at 38 percent in a head-to-head matchup. Both candidates issued statements Tuesday.
McAuliffe lauded Bolling “for his mainstream leadership, focus on job creation, and willingness to work with both parties to find solutions.”
The Democrat noted that he sided with Bolling and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in backing “a mainstream compromise on transportation” that was passed by the General Assembly last month.
“Despite the efforts of a few on the far right to derail the compromise, we were able to come together and address a major economic issue for Virginia,” said McAuliffe, who made a failed bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2009.
The transportation package, which will produce an estimated $3.5 billion in new revenue statewide over five years and additional amounts in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, has been denounced by anti-tax conservatives. Cuccinelli panned the plan as “a massive tax increase” before it was passed, but has said little about it since the General Assembly session ended Feb. 23.
“In the months ahead, there will be a clear contrast between Terry McAuliffe — a career Washington insider and Democrat fundraiser — and myself,” Cuccinelli said in his written statement.
Cuccinelli said he agreed with Bolling that the state needs a governor “who is focused on solving the problems we face like implementing a comprehensive transportation plan that addresses our long-term needs, reforming our tax code in a responsible, and balanced way that encourages economic growth, strengthening our educational system for every student, creating good jobs here in Virginia and fighting to protect the ones we already have.”
McDonnell reiterated his support for Cuccinelli on Tuesday and said he will actively campaign for his fellow Republican this fall.
Bolling put his gubernatorial ambitions on hold in 2009 and supported McDonnell, who led a statewide GOP sweep with Bolling and Cuccinelli on the ticket. Bolling has served as the administration’s chief jobs creation officer, giving him a larger role than lieutenant governors typically have. McDonnell said Tuesday that the lieutenant governor is “one of my closest advisers.”
With McDonnell’s support, Bolling began to lay the groundwork for a 2013 run for governor. But Cuccinelli upset those plans late in 2011 when he announced that he, too, would run for the state’s top job. Cuccinelli supporters won a majority of the seats on the state Republican Party’s governing body last year and voted to hold a convention to select the GOP’s 2013 ticket, reversing an earlier decision to have a primary election.
Bolling is the Senate’s presiding officer and it was his tie-breaking vote that enabled Republicans to take working control of the evenly divided chamber after the 2011 elections. In his announcement Tuesday, he expressed dismay that the state’s political climate has become “much more ideologically driven, hyper-partisan and mean spirited.”
“Rigid ideologies and personal political agendas are too often placed ahead of sound public policy and legitimate policy disagreements too quickly degenerate into unwarranted personal attacks,” Bolling wrote. “This makes it more difficult to govern effectively and get things done. While I still value public service a great deal, the truth is that I just don’t find the political process to be as enjoyable as I once did. Because of this, I decided that the time has come for me to step away from elected office and look for other ways to serve Virginia.”
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