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David Reynolds | The undercard

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Allow me to let you in on a little secret. No candidate runs just to become the attorney general of the Commonwealth of Virginia, or to be the lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. They run to become governor of Virginia. They run to be able to trade in a longer title for a shorter one.

Virginia, what a crazy state! It is the only one where you have to run twice to become governor. And then you are only allowed to serve a single four-year term. That’s a lot of running for very little sitting. No wonder once in office so little is accomplished. The winner is tired.

Sure, those two titles that will appear on your ballot are impressive – but not their salaries, barely enough to cover the cost of all the rubber-chicken dinners that have to consumed in order to keep a candidate’s political life alive. One job is essentially part time, with the hardest part looking important when you are not. The other job commands a small army of lawyers to keep the inbox empty while the AG is out of the office doing, shall we say, other business.

So why spend millions of dollars running hard for these two jobs? I already told you, in order to have plenty of time to carry out your agenda, one not to be confused with the state’s official agenda. It is Nov. 5, 2013 that is in the back of the minds of the four undercard candidates. But first they must get past Nov. 3, 2009.

Therefore, when you go to the polls in 11 days, think about who you would like to see as your next next-governor. (That’s not a misprint.) On the GOP side, an interesting event occurred. Two guys, Bill and Bob, both wanted the brass ring this year. They fought hard against each other, at least for country-club Republicans. Then a white flag went up over who would sit first in the governor’s chair. Bob McDonnell won. Bill Bolling lost, allowing him to run for his own job. And to stay healthy eating chicken for the next four years. My sources do not tell me exactly how the dispute was settled. However, we do know that dueling pistols were not used. Bob and Bill decided that was Virginia history. Possibly they drew straws, arm wrestled or played musical chairs. My guess is straws. Yours? Musical chairs. You may be right.

Ready to get serious? Okay. First, the lieutenant governor’s race.

Bill Bolling’s opponent for lieutenant governor is Democrat Jody Wagner. Jody has held high fiscal positions in both the Mark Warner and Tim Kaine administrations, managing and budgeting the state’s business. She is from Virginia Beach, has a law degree, a small business (popcorn, can you believe that?) and four children – but no social agenda. Bill Bolling is from Hanover County, has a government job, two children plus a social agenda. Jody is a fresh face, Bill seems tired. Wagner doesn’t wander far from the political center. Bolling’s political philosophy is harder to hear. That’s understandable playing second fiddle. However, when heard, it comes from stage right.

The choice here goes to Jody Wagner. Virginia needs new blood in the second seat, someone with a little life who understands the other side. Wagner is a Warner. Jody is capable of governing Mark’s way. She has the temperament and judgment to occupy the big chair in four years. Enough said. (Sorry, Bill, but you drew the short straw.)

Now to the attorney general’s race between Republican State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Del. Steve Shannon. Both are from one million strong Fairfax County. Shannon, in spite of being half my age, is the clear choice. Steve Shannon, a former criminal prosecutor, has been endorsed by more than 40 law-enforcement and first-response organizations. Ken Cuccinelli has this view of the law (4/9/09): “I will not defend what I, in my judgment, deem to be an unconstitutional law.”

Why is the AG choice so clear? First, the two personalities are very different. Ken always seems mad and uptight, wishing to change the world and Virginia to his own likeness. Steve is a pleasant guy, usually with a slight grin. But his face is firm whenever he talks about enforcing the law. Put it this way: Shannon is running on a platform to make our lives safer whenever we leave home; Cuccinelli is more concerned with what we do while at home.

By now you may be asking: Why would a conservative endorse two Democrats? Here are some answers. First, neither Bolling nor Cuccinelli are conservatives. A true conservative stands for personal choice. Secondly, I have been told that Virginia Democrats are to the right of Michigan Republicans. Maybe I’m from both states. When the Republican Party of Virginia decides to build a farm system with good prospects who can pitch issues to the political center, I will be back to cheer them on. Finally, whenever dealing with Virginia politics, I still follow my religious friends on the right who love to ask the question: WWJD? What Would Jefferson Do?

 

– Column by David Reynolds

 

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