Sunday, January 06, 2013

VA GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, contemplating an independent run for governor, finds an "independent" voice


Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, known heretofore as a GOP loyalist, may have an opportunity to make an impact in a governor's race that features a scary-extremist R vs. a sleazy, voter-unfriendly D.

"[W]hen his plan to become the GOP nominee [for Virginia governor] in 2013 hit unexpected obstacles -- first, [Attorney General Ken] Cuccinelli jumped into the race, then the Republican State Central Committee switched the nomination method to benefit the tea party favorite -- the mild-mannered lieutenant governor found his 'independent voice.' "

by Ken

As you may recall, Virginia's Republicans are on an immovable course toward nominating the wackiest man in Richmond, Atty. Gen. "Cuckoo Ken" Cuccinelli, to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. What you may not recall is that the stars' realignment in favor of the state's most celebrated wackadoodle dashed the gubernatorial hopes of -- and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who had already stepped aside once, paving the way to the GOP nomination for Governor Bob in 2009.

And the Lt. Gov. Bill occupies a special place in the state's government. As the tie-breaker in the evenly divided state Senate -- 20 R's and 20 D's since the 2011 elections -- he has effectively and reliably given the R's, who already enjoyed an overwhelming 67-32-1 advantage in the state's House of Delegates, control of the Senate as well. In year one of the new Senate alignment, writes the Washington Post's Laura Vozzella, "he broke [ties] a record 28 times, siding every time with the GOP."

Now, however, the lieutenant governor, regularly described as a "longtime party loyalist," shows signs of being off the reservation. Suddenly he is staking out positions at notable variance with those of the current Far Right-tilted party, at the same time that indications are mounting that he is contemplating an independent run against Cuckoo Ken and the all-but-certain Dem nominee for governor, political bagman Terry McAuliffe.
In the month since he dropped out of the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, stating that he would not endorse rival Ken Cuccinelli II and hinting that he might run as an independent, Bolling has become uncharacteristically vocal on a number of issues.

He has set himself apart from the normally close political ally he would like to succeed, term-limited Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), staking out positions against uranium mining, charging tolls on a portion of Interstate 95 and arming schoolteachers.

And just last week, Bolling disclosed that he has been conducting polls and meeting with business leaders to weigh support for him in a three-way race . . . .
After the Cuckoo Man, who was elected attorney general in the same 2009 election that swept Governor Bob into the statehouse, announced his gubernatorial bid, says the Post's Laura Vozzella, "the Republican State Central Committee switched the nomination method to benefit the tea party favorite," and "the mild-mannered lieutenant governor found his 'independent voice.' "
"My focus is solely on what's best for Virginia," Bolling said in an interview last week in his Capitol Square office. "It's not on what's best for the Republican Party or the Democrat Party. It's on what's best for Virginia. I think we need that kind of a more-independent voice in state government. And it's a little liberating to actually be able to say what you think and not worry about the partisan ramifications of it."

The issues he's been vocal about could be among the biggest and most emotional of the session. Among them is the possibility of lifting a 30-year ban on uranium mining to allow Southside Virginia to tap into the country's largest known uranium deposit. Bolling announced in December that he is opposed to lifting the ban. McDonnell has yet to take a position on the issue.

Another is a bill, filed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, that calls for arming some teachers or other school staff. Bolling came out against that one day after McDonnell said the commonwealth should at least consider arming teachers.
The governor, you'll recall, represents GOP Far Right extremism with a genial moderate face. In reality he's not a whole lot more "moderate" than Cuckoo Ken; he just understands the value of not striking terror in the hearts of potential voters. Which leaves plenty of room to his left -- room enough to still be seriously conservative and still have some real vote-getting appeal in a field that consists of a crackpot extremist Republican and a sleazy Democrat with no known vote-getting skills, likely to be at least as uninspiring to Dem voters as the hapless running-to-the-Right Creigh Deeds was in 2009.
If he does run, Bolling intends to position himself as an "independent Republican," so some predict that he will not stray too far from the conservative positions he has staked out over the years as lieutenant governor, state senator and a Hanover County supervisor. Last year alone, he sided with Republicans on bills related to voter ID, ultrasound-before-abortion, property rights and right-to-work laws.
In the coming Senate session, perhaps Bolling's "most dramatic departure" --
could come in the area of transportation funding, where Republicans and Democrats have been dug in for more than a decade. Republicans have wanted to take existing money from the general fund to pay for roads, while Democrats have sought to raise new revenue. Bolling said he hopes to help broker a compromise this session.

"To solve the problem, I think everybody's going to have to be willing to compromise," Bolling said. "We're going to have to come up with a package that generates some significant new revenue for transportation. That package is probably also going to have to include a greater use of existing revenues for transportation. . . . I look forward to playing an active role in the process of trying to help bring the parties together around a solution."
"Playing the middle of the road on transportation," says reporter Vozzella, "would be a fairly daring position for Virginia's No. 2 Republican --
one that "would seriously undercut the governor and Cuccinelli," said Bob Roberts, a James Madison University political scientist.

Roberts could see that happening, although he still thinks it highly unlikely that Bolling will go through with an independent bid.
I wonder, though. There have to be a growing number of Virginia Republicans who get a queasy feeling at the prospect of having Cuckoo Ken as the face of their party, not to mention a potential governor. And against a Dem like McAuliffe, there should be a lot of Dem and independent votes for the harvesting. Still, Bolling's presence would make the wildly unappealing field being offered to Virginia voters only marginally less unappealing. If I were a Virginian, I'd be seething.

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