Nevertheless, Bolling (R) says he spends 40-plus hours a week on his state job, which means he is earning about $17.30 an hour, just shy of what a big-rig driver can fetch in Richmond.
So Bolling has a day job: He’s an insurance man who merely moonlights as lieutenant governor.
“Most people in Virginia don’t realize it is a part-time office,” said Bolling, 54. “Most people that I talk to are somewhat shocked.”
That surprise is sure to increase, right along with Bolling’s power and stature. Elections last month left the Virginia Senate evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Because the lieutenant governor breaks tie votes, he is about to become Richmond’s “decider.”
“He’s the guy,” said Jeff Ryer, spokesman for the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus. “If there’s a party-line vote, he’s going to be the decider.”
Bolling, who is running to succeed Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) in 2013, could benefit from the added visibility. But the even Senate split is likely to make his two-job juggling act trickier to pull off. So will the recent
entrance of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II
(R) into the governor’s race, which instantly transformed the Republican primary from cakewalk to dogfight.
Lieutenant governors, like U.S. vice presidents, normally suffer second-banana syndrome. They’re often the butt of jokes about how they have nothing to do so long as the boss remains alive or unindicted.
“Check the pulse” is how Ryer jokingly summed up the duties.
Even lieutenant governors tell lieutenant governor jokes. Don Beyer, Virginia’s lieutenant governor from 1990 to 1998, tells this one:
Calvin Coolidge walks into a room.
He shakes a guy’s hand and says: “Hi, I’m Calvin Coolidge. I’m the lieutenant governor.” (Which he was, in Massachusetts, before becoming president.) The guy asks, “What does the lieutenant governor do?” Coolidge says, “I just did it.”
There’s more to it than that, of course. But not much more if the governor and the lieutenant, who run independently in Virginia, aren’t from the same party or don’t get along. The lieutenant presides over the Senate, breaks tie votes and sits on some commissions, unless the governor gives him more to do.
Former governor L. Douglas Wilder (D) once dismissed the job as “a rather vacuous position,” a comment that came back to haunt him years later when he ran for it. (He won anyway.)
The part-timer status is part idealism, part penny-pinching by a state smitten with small government, said A.E. Dick Howard, a constitutional law expert at the University of Virginia.