Virginians have a sober and sacred task ahead of them next month: Casting a vote for the next governor of the commonwealth.
That task is made all the more difficult because neither of the two major-party candidates is palatable.
Murky questions about their past decisions, in politics or business, leave voters with a vague sense of suspicion over their leadership ability and common sense.
Meanwhile, the two major candidates have waged nastiest, most destructive campaign in memory. Each has succeeded in damaging his opponent, but failed to adequately convey his own positives. The result is an electorate that says, “A pox on both their houses.”
The danger for Virginia is that disgusted voters will simply stay away from the polls, unable to bring themselves to choose between two bad options.
But there is an alternative. There is a positive option.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling would have run for governor had he not been jockeyed out of the opportunity by last-minute party maneuvers.
He opted not to run as an independent, either by trying to qualify for the ballot or as a write-in candidate. Instead, he chose to promote his centrist ideas through a new organization, his Virginia Mainstream Project.
Those ideas are right on the money, starting with a bipartisan redistricting commission, composed of Virginians who have not held elected office for at least 10 years, that would set up voting districts without regard to political advantage.
It is past gerrymandering of districts that has helped produce today’s political dysfunction. The party in power has designed districts favoring its candidates, disadvantaging the opposition and creating too many races in which there is no opposition at all. This stratagem puts politics over governance, partisanship over democracy. It is a state of affairs that must end.
“The redistricting process in Virginia is broken,” Mr. Bolling rightly notes. “The process is currently designed to advance political party control and incumbent protection and nothing more. … We can take the focus off of politics and power and make certain that legislative districts make sense to voters. Legislative districts should be compact, contiguous and have common interests, and promoting competition will help improve the quality of public debate and representation.”
Mr. Bolling also endorses merit-based appointment of judges instead of political appointment, also via a nonpartisan commission.
“In the past 10 years, the Virginia General Assembly has failed to fill more than 50 judgeships. These judgeships have had to be filled by the governor or by local courts on a temporary basis,” he says. “In addition, many judgeships are often filled on the basis of political patronage or horse trading. I’ve seen the process first hand, and it isn’t pretty. Judges should be selected on the basis of merit and qualification, and no other consideration, personal or political, should be a part of that process.”
Other good governance proposals include allowing the governor to run for re-election to provide continuity of leadership (Virginia is the only state in the nation that imposes this one-term restriction) and altering the budget cycle so that a governor has a better chance to shape fiscal policy.
Explains Mr. Bolling: “An incumbent governor would be able to propose two full budgets during his term in office, which would improve the integrity of the budgeting process and make certain that the budget is focused on achieving realistic policy objectives, as opposed to political objectives.”
This is the kind of common-sense approach to government that voters surely are looking for.
It takes the emphasis off partisanship and returns it to a traditional sense of public service, of what is good for the commonwealth and the citizenry rather than whatever might serve the immediate goals of the political party.
Virginia needs this kind of leadership, desperately.
Mr. Bolling also has the experience to provide such leadership. Prior to becoming lieutenant governor, he served in the state Senate for nearly 10 years. He got his start in politics as a member of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors, so he understands local government as well.
He grasps the art of the political compromise, so often lacking in government today — at all levels. By temperament and training, he is a political moderate, not an extremist.
He’s a problem-solver, not a finger-pointer.
In other words, he is the antithesis of what we see too often in politics — a welcome antidote to scorched-earth partisanship.
We think he would make a great governor.
And Virginia urgently needs the kind of experience, philosophy and style of governing that he would provide.
Although he did not seek such support, we nonetheless wholeheartedly endorse Mr. Bolling as a write-in vote for governor.
We do this in full understanding of the difficulties inherent in such an endeavor.
The odds of a write-in candidate winning the governorship are extraordinarily high.
But what are our alternatives? Stay home from the polls? Or hold our noses and vote for one of the deeply flawed major-party candidates?
Better — better by far — to cast a vote, with a clear conscience, for a positive option with a positive message.
Even if Mr. Bolling failed to win the governorship, a sizeable showing at the polls could help him win support for his good-government reforms. If his vote numbers are high enough, the major parties would have to take notice.
Solid numbers from such an unexpected challenger would demonstrate voters’ rejection of negativism and selfish, narrow partisanship. Give the parties enough of a scare, and they might change their ways.
A word here should be said about Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis. We’ve been impressed by his strong third-party run and by his intelligence, candor and courage. His message surely resonates with many Virginians. And he has the advantage of being on the ballot — no write-in necessary.
A substantial vote for the Libertarian candidate also might serve to push the major parties into reform.
But of these two men, Mr. Bolling is better qualified to actually govern the commonwealth. His experience is unparalleled, exceeding that of even the two major-party candidates.
Do the write thing. Put Bill Bolling’s name on your ballot on Nov. 5.
Virginia needs him.