Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.
Bolling suspends campaign for governor
Citing the divisive nature of the nomination convention that will determine the Republican candidate for governor next year, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling announced this morning that he’s suspending his own campaign.
Bolling’s decision leaves Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as the only Republican candidate for governor.
“I know how divisive conventions can be, and I was concerned that a prolonged campaign between Mr. Cuccinelli and me could create deep divisions within our party,” Bolling said in a statement. “The convention process would have forced Republican activists to take sides against their friends in local committees all across our state. The wounds that can develop from that type of process are often difficult to heal. Conventions are by their very nature exclusive, and at a time when we need to be projecting a positive image and reaching out to involve more Virginians in the Republican Party, I am unwilling to be part of a process that could seriously damage our image and appeal.”
Bolling has been running for governor for years. In 2009, he agreed to step aside in favor of now-Gov. Bob McDonnell’s candidacy, and ran instead for a second term as lieutenant governor — making it plain all the while that he would be running for governor in 2013.
But last year, Cuccinelli announced that he, too, would run for governor. Then the state GOP’s leaders decided to switch their nominating process from a primary — which Bolling had favored — to a convention, in which Cuccinelli would have the upper hand.
Bolling scrambled to reconfigure his campaign, which had been planning for a primary.
“While I did not support that decision, it had a dramatic impact on the 2013 campaign,” he said in today’s statement. “For the past several months my campaign team has worked hard to restructure our campaign to effectively compete in the convention process. While we have made a great deal of progress, I reluctantly concluded that the decision to change the method of nomination from a primary to a convention created too many obstacles for us to overcome.”
Bolling said suspending his campaign was “a very difficult decision” that he knows will disappoint supporters.
“Not everything we want in life is meant to be,” he said.
Cuccinelli and Bolling have had a tense relationship since Cuccinelli’s decision to enter the race. After this month’s national elections, for example, Bolling said the results showed the importance of nominating electable Republican candidates, not an “ideological firebrand.”
Bolling didn’t indicate whether he might run for a third term as lieutenant governor, saying that he and his wife “will be evaluating our future political options.” He did say that he’ll be involved in the 2013 campaigns as “a more independent voice, making certain that the candidates keep their focus on the important issues facing our state and offer a positive and realistic vision for effectively and responsibly leading Virginia.”
In a statement of his own, Cuccinelli praised Bolling’s service.
“Throughout this race, I have kept to the premise that Bill and I are allies in governance, even if temporary competitors in politics,” Cuccinelli said. “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. I will honor the Lt. Governor’s service by campaigning for Governor as we both pledged to govern when we were sworn in, in 2010.”
Bolling’s decision sets up a race for governor between Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, currently the only two candidates in the race.
In a statement, McAuliffe said he’s disappointed that “more mainstream Virginia Republicans are being driven out of leadership by the far-right.
“Virginia voters have repeatedly made clear that they prefer mainstream leaders building consensus instead of politicians pursuing their own ideological agenda,” McAuliffe added. “I intend on running a campaign that will unite Virginians across parties who share my focus putting job creation and common sense fiscal responsibility above divisive partisan crusades.”