Story by Chris Graham
I had Bill Bolling on the line, so I had to ask.
Are you running for governor next year?
“Everywhere I go, it seems that the only question that’s on everybody’s mind is, Are you going to run for governor in 2009? So despite my best efforts to get everybody to keep their focus on 2008, people still want to talk about 2009. And that may cause us to make some decisions quicker than we had really planned on making them,” Bolling said in a March 18 interview.
That was last week. This week, Bolling kept true to his word.
“While I deeply appreciate the encouragement I have received from countless people all across our state, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for governor in 2009. While it would be a great honor to serve as governor of Virginia someday, I have decided that this is simply not the right time in my personal and professional life for me to embark on a gubernatorial campaign,” Bolling said at a March 24 news conference in Richmond.
And … that was that.
Bolling is going to seek a second term as lieutenant governor, clearing the way for Attorney General Bob McDonnell to assume the mantle of likely Republican Party gubernatorial nominee.
“Bill and I are very pleased to endorse one another and to run together as a team,” McDonnell said in a teleconference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s almost unprecedented in Virginia history to have a team or two-thirds of a ticket put together this far in advance of a statewide election. We obviously are going to be spending an enormous amount of time working together early on to motivate and unify the Republicans and conservative independents around the state to demonstrate to them that we’ve got the record and the leadership and the management abilities to govern this state and govern it well.”
McDonnell wears the title of presumptive gubernatorial nominee well, I have to say.
“I’m obviously to be delighted to be in a position that I am now preparing to run for governor,” McDonnell said. “It’s my hope to convince all of the leaders in our party in very short order that I am the right person for that job, that Bill Bolling and I running together will be a strong ticket in order to secure the governor’s mansion for the first time since the 1997 election, and that we have both the vision and the record and frankly the commonsense conservative ideas and solutions to problems that people care about, the quality-of-life solutions that independent voters around the state are yearning to hear and that will make us successful in 2009.”
The news from Bolling had ramifications beyond the two statewide-office holders, of course. For one, Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton, is someone that the GOP faithful have been saying for years is a future state-office candidate.
“I’m not surprised at all. It was kind of in my calculus as I was making some decisions back in November and December of last year as well. But I never really thought there’d be a vacancy, that I could count on that,” said Saxman, who publicly flirted with the idea of launching a campaign for the 2008 Republican Senate nomination last fall.
As to a possible run for lieutenant governor in ’09 …
“No. That’s not the way Republicans do things,” Saxman said. “I’m sure in short order you’ll see Corey Stewart and Jay O’Brien and whoever else was thinking about running drop out. It’s just not worth the time and effort. The Republican (Party) is a hierarchical institution. They would say, Why would you do that? We’ve got Bill Bolling and a united ticket. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t run for the United States Senate, because I wanted to have some level of unity in the party, rather than have a long, protracted primary battle, convention battle.”
So that’s one approach. Another comes from Augusta County Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger, who was also mulling over a run for lieutenant governor in ’09, and told me this week that he talked with Bolling toward the end of the recent General Assembly session to tell him of his plans regarding the seat.
“That’s something that I’ll probably still take a look at. The dynamic is different, though, so I guess my first call might be to Bob McDonnell to see whether he would like to remain attorney general for another cycle, and then I’ll just go ahead and run for governor,” Hanger joked, then turned serious and said, “My interest, really, is one of policy. And I have to evaluate it.”
“In fact, that’s one reason I was so hesitant, I suppose, before, in that depending on what you do with it, the lieutenant-governor position can be something or not something. It is routinely used as a steppingstone to the governorship. But for me, I’ve really been looking at achieving the ability to impact policy as much as I can. I certainly can do it from where I’m at in the Senate with a lot of leadership opportunities in different areas. But I had come to think that at this point it would be good for me to go ahead and work statewide,” Hanger said.