“I will not say it’s appropriate,” said Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R). “However, it does not violate a rule.”
That was as close as the genial lieutenant governor ever came to smacking someone down this General Assembly session, and it was enough to prompt Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) to apologize. Bolling decided many highly partisan issues over the 60 days — he cast a record 28 tie-breaking votes, far surpassing the previous record of 12 and the 19 he racked up over his first six years as lieutenant governor — but still managed to preside over Richmond’s upper chamber with an air of collegiality and civility.
His style could not be more different than that of his Republican rival for governor, Ken Cuccinelli II, the in-your-face attorney general who has gone after the federal government, climate scientists and colleges with policies against gay discrimination. But in his own, mild-mannered way, Bolling helped Republicans take charge of the Senate and pass conservative legislation that had eluded them for years.
With tie-breakers nearly every other day, on average, Bolling decided the fate of some of the most hotly contested issues of the session — ones near and dear to the conservative GOP base he’ll need to beat Cuccinelli in the June 2013 primary. He tipped the balance on bills and amendments related to
, ultrasound-before-abortion, property rights, school vouchers, right-to-work laws and — perhaps most important of all — the organization of the Senate.
“I think he was able to burnish his conservative credentials,” said former lieutenant governor John Hager, who tuned in to Senate proceedings on television. “I thought it was very smooth and very fair and honest, and when he voted, there was not a lot of fanfare. He went right to it and did it without any extra emotion or anything else. He just handled his business.”
Even Democrats who say Bolling helped Republicans pull off a power grab, who bitterly opposed bills he nudged over the finish line, say his high-profile stint as tie-breaker will help him battle Cuccinelli.
“You’re running against somebody who thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old and flat, you can’t be too conservative,” said Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax). “I don’t think he cast any votes there that would get him in trouble with the so-called Republican base. There could be some argument about the general election.”
That is not to say that Bolling won over everyone with his consequential but low-key turn atop the dais, particularly at a time when the GOP base seems to crave firebrands.
“In the past two years, it has become clear that Virginia and the rest of the country are suffering from a lack of firm, principled conservative leaders . . . men and women not just willing to talk about our principles but to stick their necks out and lead on tough issues,’’ Teiro Cuccinelli, the attorney general’s wife, said in a recent letter to supporters. “Personally I’m very tired of elected officials who want to make everybody happy and avoid ruffling any feathers at all costs. By avoiding all controversy, they actually don’t accomplish anything of substance. These types of politicians are not leaders.”