Bolling wins reelection in race for lieutenant governor
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) cruised to reelection Tuesday in Virginia, proving the wisdom of an early decision to step aside for Robert F. McDonnell's bid for governor and run a campaign that moved the GOP closer to the middle of the ideological spectrum.
Focusing on jobs, taxes and the commonwealth's reputation as a welcoming place to do business, Bolling beat Democratic challenger Jody M. Wagner by a sizable margin amid light turnout.
Bolling ran a focused race in McDonnell's shadow, portraying himself as a political moderate. He accused his opponent of botching key revenue projections as a top finance official under Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), setting up the state for painful last-minute measures to cope with huge budget gaps.
"We ran a positive campaign that focused on the issues people care about. Our opponents ran a different campaign," Bolling said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "I don't think we knew we had it in the bag, but we knew we were running strong in the polls. We just had crowds that were bigger than anything we had seen."
Wagner's campaign made an issue of Bolling's attendance at board and commission meetings and emphasized her record as a small-business owner, secretary of finance under Kaine and treasurer under former governor Mark R. Warner (D).
"Let me say one thing: Our work does not stop here. We face too many challenges, and we simply can't pack up and go home," Wagner said. "We must keep our focus on the next generation, because like every parent here tonight, I want Virginia to be a state that my children and their families will call home."
Bolling's victory starts the clock on four more years of his wielding the gavel in the state Senate and awaiting his chance for a crack at the top job. It also could sound the beginning of a possible battle between Bolling and state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R), winner of the attorney general's race, for the opportunity to succeed McDonnell.
Lieutenant governors preside over the Senate, cast tiebreaker votes and are first in the line of succession to the governor.
As more attention was given to the governor's race between state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) and McDonnell, a former attorney general, the battle between Bolling and Wagner became increasingly negative. Bolling said Wagner failed as Virginia's top financial planner. Wagner said Bolling often failed to show up for work.
But it was difficult to tell whether anyone was listening. Although the lieutenant governor's race seldom attracts much attention, this year's contest was all but ignored, sandwiched between a perceived referendum on Barack Obama's young presidency and a brawl for the attorney general's office.
Wagner emerged as the nominee from a four-way primary. She said that her farsighted financial policies have enabled Virginia to weather the recession better than many other states.
Wagner, who started the gourmet popcorn company Jody's Inc., also bet that voters worried about jobs would be outraged that Bolling showed up at meetings of his commissions and boards about 6 percent of the time.
Robert Roberts, a political science professor at James Madison University, said economic worries ultimately drove the electorate, and the GOP's traditional attack on Democrats as tax-and-spenders struck a nerve.
"The Northern Virginia voter, the upper- and middle-class who are fairly well off, are fearful of tax increases," Roberts said. "They're more inclined to accept the Republican argument."