Bolling, Wagner give each other poor job reviews

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 22, 2009

In this year's race for Virginia's second-highest office, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has accused his opponent of botching things pretty badly the last time she worked for the government.

Jody M. Wagner says that Bolling has done almost no work.

The race between Bolling, a Republican seeking reelection, and Wagner, a Democrat running her second political campaign, has come to this: In seeking an office that is largely ceremonial, Bolling and Wagner have framed the contest around the issue of who has been more lazy or incompetent.

The hostility has intensified with each volley of negative ads and an insult-filled debate Monday at Roanoke College in Salem. Recent polls gave Bolling a 4 to 7 percentage point lead over Wagner, a narrower lead than Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell holds over the Democratic candidate, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath).

Bolling has said that Wagner, as finance secretary under Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) from January 2006 to August 2008, deserves blame as the architect of a budget whose out-of-whack assumptions forced the state to make painful last-minute cuts in jobs and programs. He has also accused Wagner and her running mate of thinking that every problem facing Virginia can be solved by a new tax.

"I don't think she did a good job as secretary of finance, and I think we've paid a pretty painful price because of those revenue projections," Bolling said in a recent interview.

But Wagner has said that, despite wielding a fine gavel in the Senate, Bolling has been a no-show as the state's No. 2 official. Given his chance to shape policy for four years, Bolling attended just four of 67 meetings of the boards and commissions the lieutenant governor belongs to, an attendance record of about 6 percent, Wagner said. She said that Bolling's spotty showing suggests that he is out of touch with the people he governs.

"I think it's a very important issue, because he's asking citizens of Virginia to hire him for another four years. If this were private industry trying to decide whether or not you stay in that job, you wouldn't get another four years," Wagner said in an interview this month.

But Bolling said he was as active as a Republican lieutenant governor could be with a Democrat in the governor's mansion. By his reckoning, he appeared at such meetings 80 percent of the time. Bolling said Wagner has distorted his attendance record, failing to account for the 182 days he presided over the Senate during his term. And he said her record of attendance on boards and commissions also has gaps.

Lieutenant governors, who are second in line to the governor, oversee the parliamentary business of the state Senate. They also cast tiebreaking votes. Many, including those who hold the office, view the part-time, $36,321-a-year job as a sort of four-year holding pattern for the top job.

Bolling, 52, who is a vice president in an insurance company, grew up in West Virginia's coal country and attended the University of Charleston. He and his wife, Jean Ann, moved to Mechanicsville in 1981 and raised two sons.

Since deciding not to challenge former state attorney general McDonnell for the GOP's top spot on the ticket, Bolling has run a closely coordinated campaign with him.

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