Story by Chris Graham
Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore has weighed in on the Republican Party lieutenant-governor nomination battle – in favor of Mechanicville Sen. Bill Bolling.
Bolling, who is challenging Prince William County Board of Supervisors chair Sean Connaughton for the party nod, was a cosponsor of the legislation initiated by Gilmore that brought car-tax relief to Virginia residents in 1998.
“During my administration, Bill Bolling stood with me and supported my efforts to eliminate the car tax,” Gilmore said Tuesday. “When the Senate leadership tried to block our efforts to eliminate the car tax, Bill Bolling stood strong in support of keeping the promise we made to the people of Virginia. That’s the kind of principled, conservative leadership we need in Virginia.”
Tuesday’s endorsement was the second made by Gilmore in the 2005 primary season. Gilmore has also sided with former attorney general Jerry Kilgore in his bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination against Warrenton mayor George Fitch.
The endorsement of Bolling could turn out to be quite meaningful as the June 14 party primary approaches, University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Matt Smyth said on Tuesday.
“An endorsement can be important to the outcome of a race. A lot of it depends on who is doing the endorsing. With Jim Gilmore, a former governor and attorney general, making an endorsement in a Republican primary, that can be significant,” Smyth told The Augusta Free Press.
More significant, Connaughton campaign spokesman Bill Kling said late Tuesday, was what Connaughton was doing – namely, voting in favor of a 16-cent decrease in Prince William’s real-estate tax rate – while Bolling was sharing the news of Gilmore’s announcement.
“On the very day Sean Connaughton was busy cutting Prince William County homeowners’ real-estate tax rate for the seventh time in five years, Bill Bolling was scampering to prop up his faltering campaign with an endorsement,” Kling said.
“Sean Connaughton’s was the really important action that occurred today in the campaign for lieutenant governor. It demonstrates the experience, innovation and toughness that Sean Connaughton will take to Richmond when Virginia’s thinking voters elect him as their next lieutenant governor,” Kling said.
Gilmore said it is Bolling who “has the background knowledge and experience that is necessary to lead Virginia.”
“I can think of no one more qualified than Sen. Bolling to hold the second highest elected office in the Commonwealth,” Gilmore said.
That endorsement “could very well give Sen. Bolling a bit of an edge,” Smyth said.
“The race for the nomination is by all accounts a close race, and something like this in a close race can mean something important. It’s hard to quantify if it means 5 percentage points or 10 percentage points or what have you, but it could be a factor,” Smyth said.
Bolling certainly seems to think that is the case.
“Having Gov. Gilmore’s support solidifies my position as the only candidate for lieutenant governor who can be trusted to keep taxes low and oppose unnecessary tax increases,” Bolling said on Tuesday.
“It was my honor to stand with him in his effort to end the car tax, and it is my honor to have him standing with me in this campaign,” Bolling said.