WASHINGTON -- The possibility of a three-way gubernatorial free-for-all in Virginia evaporated Tuesday, as Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling announced that he would not run as an independent, citing money as the main impediment.
Bolling’s decision, disclosed in an email to supporters, is good news for state Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, the likely Republican nominee. Cuccinelli, a conservative firebrand, figured to be hurt more than Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, a longtime figure on the Washington political scene who was a major fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Money appeared to be the biggest roadblock to a run by Bolling, who had originally sought the GOP nomination. He withdrew from the race after Virginia Republicans decided to choose their nominee at a convention this spring, rather than in a primary. The convention process strongly favors Cuccinelli, a favorite of conservative activists. Bolling had signaled his desire to enter the governor’s race as an “independent Republican,” most recently in a mass email to his backers that promised a decision by this week.
“To run a winning campaign I would have needed to raise at least $10-$15M. That's a very difficult thing to do without the resources of a major political party and national donors at your disposal,” Bolling wrote. “Based on my discussions with key donors over the past three weeks, I was confident I could raise enough money to run a competitive campaign, but I was not confident I could raise enough money to run a winning campaign.”
Public polling had indicated that his candidacy would at least marginally hurt Cuccinelli’s chances of keeping the governor’s mansion in Republican hands, a prospect that worried some Virginia Republicans. In his email, Bolling said he had heard from fellow Republicans who “encouraged me to not give up on the Republican Party and continue working to get our party back on a more mainstream course."
He wished Cuccinelli and McAuliffe well but did not endorse either man or indicate whether he would do so. In criticism that appeared directed at both men, Bolling deplored what he said was “a growing dissatisfaction” with the political climate in the state.
“In many ways I fear that the ‘Virginia way’ of doing things is rapidly being replaced by the ‘Washington way’ of doing things and that's not good for Virginia. As a result, the political process has become much more ideologically driven, hyper-partisan and mean spirited,” Bolling said. “Rigid ideologies and personal political agendas are too often placed ahead of sound public policy and legitimate policy disagreements too quickly degenerate into unwarranted personal attacks. This makes it more difficult to govern effectively and get things done.”
Virginia and New Jersey, where Republican Gov. Chris Christie is a heavy favorite to gain re-election, are the only states with elections for governors this year.