RICHMOND — When Virginia Republicans gather next weekend to nominate their picks for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling won’t be joining them, protesting a process he sees as thwarting his dreams of running for the state’s top job.
“The lieutenant governor did not support changing the method of nomination from a primary to a convention,” Bolling spokeswoman Ibbie Hedrick said in statement Wednesday. “If we want to grow the Republican Party over time, we have to involve more people in the process of nominating our candidates, not fewer. Conventions empower the most strident voices within a political party, and they effectively disenfranchise more mainstream voters. Given these concerns, the lieutenant governor does not plan on attending or participating in the convention.”
After stepping aside to clear a path for Gov. Robert F. McDonnell in 2009, Bolling was the heir apparent heading into the 2013 gubernatorial race, with the governor’s support. But in 2011, rising GOP star Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II shook up the contest with his candidacy.
The state Republican Party initially opted for a primary but decided in June to nominate at its convention — a process some observers say hobbles some candidates because convention delegates often vote for the most conservative choice.
Bolling then calculated that the way forward would be too difficult against Cuccinelli, a conservative who would fare better at a convention than a primary. “ I reluctantly concluded that the decision to change the method of nomination from a primary to a convention created too many obstacles for us to overcome,” he told supporters in the fall.
In November, Bolling suspended his campaign for the GOP nomination and criticized Cuccinelli as too divisive to appeal to mainstream voters. Bolling briefly considered running as an independent but decided against it because of a lack of fundraising support.
Cuccinelli is now the sole candidate seeking the party’s nomination in the high-profile contest — one of only two governor’s races in the nation this year. Businessman Terry McAuliffe is the sole Democrat seeking his party’s nomination in a June 11 primary.
The Cuccinelli campaign declined to comment on Bolling’s decision not to attend the two-day convention, which starts May 17 in Richmond. The Republican Party of Virginia did not immediately return an e-mail and phone call seeking comment.