I’m not sure what to make of the news that Jon Bowerbank has decided to drop out of the race for the Democratic Party lieutenant-governor nomination.
My first instinct is to say I’m surprised given that the most recent public polls had in the area of 70 percent of the expected June 9 primary electorate still undecided with three weeks and change to go to the opening of the polls.
Jody Wagner has been the solid frontrunner for the past few months, sure, but that’s still an awful lot of people in what will in all likelihood be an extremely low turnout race.
The reason I’m hedging is because I’m thinking that Bowerbank has to know something that we don’t to decide to drop out today – as in he has to have some private poll numbers showing him to be out of the running and also showing Wagner pretty much winning the thing, considering that he also decided to endorse Wagner as he dropped out.
Or … maybe it was clear to Bowerbank, a Southwest Virginia energy businessman whose appeal would be to fiscal conservative, middle-of-the-road Democrats and moderate independents who also could be predisposed to backing Wagner, that he was running a distant second among that segment of voters to Wagner, and if he stayed in the race the split could end up throwing the election to the progressive Mike Signer, a 36-year-old former counselor to Mark Warner and top campaign advisor to Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello.
I’ve been good at reading the tea leaves with assumptions about private polls of late – calling the double-digit lead that Terry McAuliffe has opened up in the gubernatorial race, for instance, by noting the changes in strategy of Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran to forego attacking each other to go full-throttle at McAuliffe before the public polls revealed the widening gap between McAuliffe and his two pursuers.
Or … I could have been lucky there. Who knows, right?
Below are the statements from the Bowerbank, Wagner and Signer campaigns.
Jon Bowerbank: “For the past year and a half, I have traveled the length and breadth of our great Commonwealth. I have been inspired by the people of Virginia, the commitment of the various candidates and elected officials I have met along the way and by the many people who are such an important part of our democracy … committed volunteers, activists, reporters, editors and bloggers just to name a few.
“I have had the pleasure of occupying a front row seat at numerous major political events, debates and forums. I have spent a significant amount of time getting to know the other candidates for various offices. I have also learned a great deal about the issues that confront the people and institutions of our Commonwealth.
“My campaign for Lieutenant Governor was born from a desire to be of greater service to the people of Virginia. That desire has not wavered. In fact, I have found that my service as a member of the Board of Supervisors in Russell County is extremely satisfying. I feel that my colleagues and I are really making a difference in the lives of the people we serve.
“I firmly believe that my central campaign premise – increasing job creation for Virginia centralized through green/non-conventional energy and rebuilding our core infrastructure while we retool our educational systems – is as sound now as it was 18 months ago. In fact, it is probably even more critical as we are all unfortunately in the midst of a severe economic crisis not experienced since the Great Depression.
“However I am responsible first and foremost to my family and my employees at EMATS and because of those responsibilities for the next 30 days and the next 6 months, I would no longer be able to devote my energies to this campaign full time. I believe Virginia and the Democratic Party need someone who can devote their full attention and energy to the job of being the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor
“I have, therefore, reached a decision to suspend my campaign and to throw my full and unqualified endorsement behind the candidacy of Jody Wagner. I have gotten to know Jody well on the campaign trail and believe she would be a great nominee and a great Lieutenant Governor.
“I have also come to know Mike Signer, and I wish him well now and in the future. My decision to endorse Jody is not a negative reflection on him.
“I care deeply about Virginia and I fear that to continue this campaign at this time would simply cause tumult and acrimony and give aid and comfort to those who stand in the way of the process. I want to be part of a unified Democratic Party now and in the future, and I believe my decision is in the best interest of the party.
“I want to personally thank those who have been so supportive of me. My Congressman, Rick Boucher, was an early and enthusiastic supporter as were former Congresswoman Leslie Byrne, State Senators Chap Petersen and Phillip Puckett and Delegates Dan Bowling, Bud Phillips, Lionel Spruill, and Joe Johnson. I also wish to thank the 100+ elected and party officials that have endorsed my candidacy. I especially want to thank my family for the sacrifices they made as I traveled across the state and I look forward to spending more time with them.
“I am very grateful to my staff; they have worked hard for me and I have said many times that I have the hardest working campaign and we were positioned well. I hope they will all work as hard for our nominee as they have worked for me.
“I have also made a decision to return political contributions to those who have supported my campaign. I will instruct my staff in the coming days to prepare checks to refund those contributions.
“Now simply wasn’t my time. I resolutely believe, however, that my time will come. In the future I intend to again offer myself for public service. When that time comes I will be prepared to run and to serve.
“Today is the two year anniversary of the death of my hero … my father … Tom Bowerbank. He and I shared a great admiration of Winston Churchill. My father taught me this quote of Winston Churchill’s. “Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never, never – in nothing great and small – large and petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
“I believe my decision to give in on this campaign is based on honour and good sense and, in that respect, I hope this would have made Winston, and my father, proud.”
Jody Wagner: “I want to sincerely thank Jon for his support. Since I entered this race last August, Jon and I have shared a commitment to addressing the critical issues that face the Commonwealth. Jon has been a tireless advocate for creating new jobs, expanding the economy, and strengthening our public education system. I have great respect for his experience in starting and growing a business in Virginia – a background we share, and one that will be critical in helping to turn our state into a leader in the industries of the future, such as renewable energy production. I look forward to campaigning alongside Jon in the coming weeks and months, and I know the Democratic Party of Virginia is fortunate to have his leadership.”
Mike Signer: “Jon Bowerbank was a formidable opponent and I wish him the best of luck in his personal, professional, and future political life.
“This development is great news for this campaign. We will now have a two-person race, with clear choices. Make no mistake: I am running because the Democratic Party I’ve been fighting for for nearly 15 years is about social justice and economic fairness. I have the fire in the belly to take on Bill Bolling with my message of turning the office of Lieutenant Governor from a placeholder to a public advocate and shine a spotlight on problems we’ve ignored for too long. As Senior Strategist to Tom Perriello on his upset race last year, I have a record of beating tough Republicans—and I can’t wait to do it again this fall.”
“With the highest number of online donors, growing union support, three Congressional District Democratic chairs, dozens of local Democratic chairs, and a growing number of elected officials joining my campaign, one thing is clear: this campaign is about momentum, which will take us through June 9 and to victory this fall.”
– Story by Chris Graham