By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
FREDERICKSBURG — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is stepping aside … again.
The veteran Virginia politician cleared the way for the less-senior Bob McDonnell to run for governor in 2009. In an e-mail to supporters late Tuesday night, Bolling announced he was ending his 2013 gubernatorial run – effectively handing the GOP nomination to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Recalling the team arrangement he had forged with McDonnell, Bolling wrote, “I had hoped that Attorney General Cuccinelli and I would be able to form that same kind of united Republican ticket in 2013. However, late last year Mr. Cuccinelli unexpectedly announced that he intended to challenge me for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor.
“I was confident in my ability to win our party’s nomination for governor in a statewide primary election, which was the method of nomination that had previously been adopted by the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia,” Bolling said.
“However, in June of this year the newly constituted State Central Committee voted to change the manner in which we will nominate our candidates in 2013 from a statewide primary to a closed party convention. While I did not support that decision, it had a dramatic impact on the 2013 campaign.”
The Henrico County Republican said he “reluctantly concluded” that the convention format “created too many obstacles” for him to overcome.
Cuccinelli, a tea party favorite, is expected to face Terry McAuliffe, a chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a highly partisan figure in Virginia politics. McAuliffe finished a distant second to Creigh Deeds in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2009.
Virginia Tech political science professor Craig Brians speculated that Bolling’s withdrawal “will strengthen GOP chances, because then Attorney General Cuccinelli does not have to push farther right in an effort to win the nomination.
“Still, Ken Cuccinelli will face challenges in appealing to middle of the road Virginia voters based upon what he has already said and done.”
Though Bolling was considered the more moderate of the two Republican candidates, conservatives had mixed feelings about his withdrawal from the race.
“Actually, I am quite disappointed,” said Rick Buchanan, co-chair of the Fauquier County Tea Party. “The tea party was gearing up for a huge get-out-the-delegate program.
“This may be an attempt to thwart the truly conservative movement here in Virginia,” Buchanan said. “This move so early seems to be a giant wet blanket on our parade.
“It will certainly remove some of the excitement of a convention and, for this election cycle, remove the main thrust of the organizational effort that would be used for this and following elections.”
Manassas Tea Party member Greg Letiecq said Bolling’s withdrawal will bring greater attention to down-ticket candidates at the party’s nominating convention in Richmond next spring.
“Not having Cuccinelli flooding the convention with his delegates will have a very big impact” that will shine greater light on the hotly contested campaigns for lieutenant governor and attorney general, he said.
Virginia governors are barred from serving consecutive terms, though legislation is being considered to change that.
Reagan George, founder of the Virginia Voters Alliance, a conservative election-watch group, said, “The bigger issue for the Republican Party nationally and especially in Virginia is the need to focus on precinct organization across the state.”
“The (Republican Party of Virginia) needs to get its act together and stop being a top-of-the-ticket, personality-driven party,” he advised.
Karen Miner Hurd, chairman emeritus of the Virginia Tea Party Alliance PAC, said Bolling’s withdrawal “will be seen as a clear victory for strong conservative principles within the party, especially in light of the failure of ‘electable’ establishment candidates in this year’s Virginia U.S. Senate and presidential races.”
“Now that Cuccinelli is the presumptive Republican nominee, this allows the Republican Party and Ken Cuccinelli to direct resources to winning the general election,” she said. “Cuccinelli has strong conservative views that he articulates in an engaging manner and he will do well with independents and soft Democrats who are not hard leftists like McAullife.”
State Republican Chairman Pat Mullins said, “Lt. Gov. Bolling’s decision to suspend his campaign was as surprising to me as it was selfless. For the better part of two decades, Bill Bolling has been a dedicated public servant. The Commonwealth of Virginia is a much better place because of his service in the Senate and as lieutenant governor.
“Our party was truly blessed with two fantastic candidates for governor this year, and Virginia would have done well under a Bolling administration, just as it will do well under a Cuccinelli administration,” Mullins said.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Cuccinelli said, “I am honored and proud to have served with the lieutenant governor over the last decade, in the state Senate, as running mates for statewide office and as leaders of Virginia state government.”
“Throughout this race, I have kept to the premise that Bill and I are allies in governance, even if temporary competitors in politics. Bill Bolling is a good man — a true public servant who has worked hard throughout his career to make Virginia a better place to live and raise our families. I cannot speak highly enough of his service,” he said.
“I will honor the lieutenant governor’s service by campaigning for governor as we both pledged to govern when we were sworn in, in 2010. I will continue the challenging work of advancing first principles in Virginia’s policy arena by creating an environment for maximizing job creation, preserving life, liberty and opportunity, and working to make Virginia a beacon of hope and prosperity in these tough economic times.”
Contact Kenric Ward at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824.
—Edited by Kelly Carson, [email protected]