U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will endorse Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling over Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the primary contest for the GOP nomination for governor next year, according to several people with knowledge of the plan who were not allowed to speak publicly.
Cantor is headlining a fundraiser for Bolling next Thursday at former congressman Tom Davis’s Northern Virginia home (though Davis previously hosted a fundraiser for Cuccinelli and will not be endorsing anyone anytime soon, he says).
The event comes just before a showdown between Bolling and Cuccinelli supporters as the party’s governing board revisits whether to hold a primary or convention next year
Cantor’s endorsement is not terribly surprising since the two men are from the same region and share a political consultant. But it could give Bolling a boost just before the vote Friday.
Cantor’s political consultant Ray Allen Jr. confirmed Cantor would appear with Bolling, but declined to comment on an endorsement. Cuccinelli political director Noah Wall declined to comment. Bolling will host his annual “Burgers with Bill” fundraiser the next day to celebrate his 55th birthday.
Cuccinelli is hosting his own fundraisers next week — a dinner Wednesday in Tysons Corner at the Tower Club and a luncheon in Richmond Thursday at the Omni Hotel.
A Quinnipiac University poll released this week shows Cuccinelli leading Bolling among Republican registered voters, 51 percent to 15 percent.
Cuccinelli is popular with many conservatives, and a Washington Post survey released last month showed the attorney general with much stronger name identification than Bolling.
The outspoken attorney general has garnered national attention for suing the federal government over health care, advising colleges that they could not adopt policies protecting gay people and subpoenaing climate change documents from the University of Virginia.
Bolling, who stepped aside in 2009 to allow Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to run unopposed in the GOP primary, has been campaigning for governor for years. Cuccinelli surprised him — and Virginia political watchers — when he announced in December that he would challenge Bolling.
Terry McAuliffe, businessman and former Democratic Nation al Committee chairman, plans to run for governor, but he has not officially announced his intentions and will not do so until after the November elections.