By Jeb Inge
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has pulled out of the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race, leaving Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli the likely GOP nominee.
"After a great deal of consideration I have decided to suspend my campaign for the Republican Party's nomination for governor of Virginia," Bolling said in a statement.
Announcing his decision in an email Wednesday morning, Bolling cited that the state Republican Party's recent switch from a statewide primary to party convention presented "too many obstacles for us to overcome."
"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 said in the statement.
Bolling's 20-year political career has been spent on the Hanover County Board of Supervisors, the Virginia State Senate, and as lieutenant governor under Democrat Tim Kaine and, more recently Republican Bob McDonnell, under whom Bolling served as the commonwealth's chief jobs creator.
In a release on his Facebook profile, Gov. McDonnell thanked Bolling for his service, and expressed regret that he was dropping out of the race.
"Every Virginian, in every region and of every political persuasion, owes a debt of gratitude to Bill Bolling for his work on behalf of our state," McDonnell said. "I have also told Bill how much this Commonwealth needs him to stay involved in public life in the years ahead. And I know he is not done advocating positive conservative ideas."
Bolling in 2009 shuttered a gubernatorial race against McDonnell, in return for McDonnell's support in 2013. That support, however, was contingent on the nomination being conducted in a statewide primary, which would be open to all voters. Bolling's likelihood of success was diminished when the state GOP switched to a party convention, which would give greater influence to conservative GOP delegates.
"In addition, 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. "The wounds that can develop from that type of process are often difficult to heal."
Cuccinelli, who has gained national prominence through challenges to the Affordable Care Act and climate change, now has a clear road to the GOP nomination.
"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 in a statement Wednesday.
The Democratic Governors Association quickly released a statement on Cuccinelli.
"Ken Cuccinelli would be the most extreme major party nominee for governor in Virginia's history," said DGA executive director Colm O'Comartun. "He has spent the last four years launching anti-science, anti-equality, and fringe partisan crusades at the expense of doing the people's business."
Tea party-favorite Cuccinelli likely will face Democrat businessman Terry McAuliffe, who stands as the lone Democrat since U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) announced he would remain the Senate rather than seek a return to Richmond.
Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, called Bolling's announcement a surprise, but lauded the decision as "selfless."
"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 release.
Bolling did not say in the statement whether he would seek re-election as lieutenant governor.
"In the coming days Jean Ann and I will be evaluating our future political options. I love Virginia and I value public service a great deal," Bolling said. "I assure you that I will continue to look for ways to make a contribution to the public life of our Commonwealth."
Contact Region Editor Jeb Inge at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com