Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.
Stimpson, Radtke say Bolling taking “burn the house down” approach in refusing to back Cuccinelli
In the wake of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s decision Wednesday to drop out of the 2013 governor’s race, some conservative activists say his decision is emblematic of a “take your ball and go home” mindset among establishment Republicans who don’t like the increasing influence of grassroots activists in the party.
In a post on her Facebook page Thursday, Stafford supervisor and 2013 lieutenant governor candidate Susan Stimpson said Bolling is taking a “burn the house down” approach.
And at Bolling’s press conference in Richmond Thursday morning, former Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke — who ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate earlier this year — said the same thing.
Both women described a struggle between grassroots activists and “establishment” Republicans. The grassroots, they said, played by the party’s rules and gained control over the party’s apparatus earlier this year, when more of them got elected in local GOP committees to the committee that runs the state party. They then switched the party’s nominating process for 2013 from a primary to a convention, something Bolling cited as one of the driving factors in his decision to end his campaign.
Instead of abiding by the party’s decision, Stimpson and Radtke said, Bolling has decided he doesn’t want to play.
In her post, Stimpson noted that Bolling has declined to back Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, now the expected Republican nominee for governor.
“While I understand his disappointment that he won’t win the nomination, this position is simply indefensible and destroys his legacy as Lt Governor,” Stimpson wrote. “This is the same ‘burn the house down’ approach that the establishment has threatened us with in the past when they don’t get their way.”
Both women said conservative activists have long supported the Republican Party’s nominee, even when they preferred other candidates (Stimpson cited presidential candidate Mitt Romney). They said Bolling and other “establishment” Republicans should do the same.
“If we are to follow Bill Bolling’s example, they should just quit and go home,” Stimpson wrote. “That’s just wrong. Bolling’s way leads to an endless future of liberal big government victories and the diminishment of our values and liberties.”
Radtke said she has been working within the party rules for years to urge convention nomination processes over primaries. She said the establishment of the GOP is controlled by corporate money and political consultants, and that a convention better allows grassroots activists to influence the party’s nominees.
Now that those grassroots activists hold a majority of seats within the state party’s ruling committee, she said, establishment Republicans are upset.
“There’s really a battle for the heart and soul of the party,” Radtke said. “And now the establishment has decided they don’t like it.”
She said establishment members of the party have long held a double-standard — they told conservative activists to accept establishment nominees, but refuse to accept conservative ones if they don’t like the results.
She said Bolling has essentially “said he’s leaving the party” by refusing to back its likely nominee, Cuccinelli.