Mainstream leadership will position Virginia for growth and success, but Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said Monday that he is still deciding whether he will accept the challenge and responsibility of providing it as the state's next governor.
Speaking in the Charlottesville area for the first time since the close of this year's General Assembly session, Bolling, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2005 and again in 2009, pointed to the recently-passed statewide transportation package which garnered support from legislators on both sides of the aisle, as an example of the kind of bipartisan compromise he would facilitate.
Bolling delivered his remarks before about 400 University of Virginia students in political expert and professor Larry Sabato’s class.
If he jumps in, Bolling would create a three-way race for governor, facing Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Bolling has set a self-imposed deadline of March 14 to announce his intentions.
In his introduction of Bolling, Sabato said if Bolling does decide to run for governor, he would bring credibility, respect and experience to Richmond. Sabato cited Bolling’s leadership and connections in the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors as one example.
“He has served as chair of that group, he knows the [lieutenant governors] all over the country and number twos have a way of becoming number ones,” Sabato said.
“Or fading forever into political oblivion,” Bolling quipped, prompting a round of laughter from the students.
Bolling reiterated that he thinks McAuliffe’s challenge in getting elected is that many people don’t know him and some see him as an outsider to Virginia politics.
“On the other hand, you’ve got Mr. Cuccinelli. His problem is that people do know him,” Bolling said, eliciting another round of laughter from the students. “I think his challenge is that he has to redefine himself if he’s going to have any realistic chance of reaching a more moderate, mainstream voter.” But Bolling said his moderate tone shouldn't been seen as abandonment of his conservative values.
"I’m a conservative guy, I believe in a conservative approach to government, that’s why I’m a Republican, but I’m a mainstream conservative guy,” Bolling said.
In the meantime, Bolling criticized what he described as the “Washingtonzination of Richmond.”
“The biggest problem in Washington today is that people have forgotten how to compromise,” Bolling said. “They’ve forgotten how to work together to solve problems and get things done. … Everything is a fight. We live in a day and a time when a lot of people think compromise is a four letter word.”
Looking ahead, Bolling said he’s ruled out running for a third term as lieutenant governor and that if he joins the race for governor, he’s in it to win it.
“I will not get in this race just to be a spoiler … that’s not a proper motivation and that’s not my style. If I get in this race, it’s going to be because I think I’m the best guy for the job and I do,” he said.
“I can’t tell you today what I’m going to do because I don’t know,” Bolling continued. “Regardless of what I decide, I am always going to be looking for a way to serve Virginia — I love Virginia.”
Speaking after his formal remarks to the class, Bolling said there’s “no question” that there’s room for an independent candidate.
“What we’ve got to figure out over the course of the next couple of weeks is whether we can raise the money to run a winning campaign and whether or not this is the right thing for us to do,” he said.
Dahler Battle, a first year student, said the lieutenant governor’s moderate message might be enough to generate the popular support he needs to win the election.
“The cool thing is it’s getting away from the party aspect of [elections], kind of having the feeling of getting more to a grassroots campaign. … If he can get that backing, it would be exciting to see if he can get that support,” Battle said.
John York, a graduate student, agreed but said he thinks energizing voters will prove to be the greatest challenge.
“I think it’s going to be difficult to win an off year election as a moderate,” York said. “It’s going to really depend on a lack of enthusiasm for the other candidates. He’s going to have to depend on a voter that’s relatively turned off by the process coming out in an election year that typically has historically low turnout figures. With that demographic, he’s not running against Cuccinelli or McAuliffe — he’s running against apathy.”
McAuliffe is slated to speak in Sabato's class this semester and was also in the Charlottesville area Monday. He toured high-tech manufacturer Mikro Systems. The company has federal contracts that would be jeopardized by the Washington’s latest budget impasse, according to a statement.
"It is time for mainstream leaders of both parties to come together and find a common sense solution to avoid sequestration,” McAuliffe said. “We simply can not afford any more rigid ideological posturing from extreme politicians when hundreds of thousands of Virginia jobs are on the line.”