Virginia Gov. Lt. Bill Bolling (R) sent out a mass e-mail this week running through the state’s legislative agenda. He concluded this way:
As you know, when I suspended my campaign for the Republican Party’s nomination for Governor I promised to be a more independent voice on the important issues facing Virginia. Being removed from the partisan political process has enabled me to speak more candidly about the future of our state without regard to partisan ramifications. Over the past month you have seen me speak out as a more independent voice on multiple occasions. I will continue to do so during this year’s legislative session. My focus will be solely on what is best for Virginia, without regard to politics. I think we need that kind of independent voice in state government and I am prepared to provide it.
Hmm. Is this a hint of an independent run for governor? Might he challenge Sen. Mark Warner (R-Va.) in 2014?
Whatever he is up to it is clear that he has put his finger on a concern many Virginia Republicans have. In the upcoming gubernatorial race, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is too conservative and former Democratic National Committee chairman and Clinton moneyman Terry McAuliffe is not an acceptable alternative. Meanwhile, there is no viable alternative to Warner. In short, where is the Gov. Bob McDonnell voter (Republican, suburban, middle of the road) to go?
McDonnell of course tried to point them to Bolling by endorsing him for governor. He’s now being the stalwart Republican in backing Cuccinelli, who frankly lacks the depth and broad appeal McDonnell has displayed. It is remarkable in the state that gave us Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va..), George Allen (former governor and U.S. Senator), Sen. John Warner, McDonnell, and numerous prominent Republican congressmen (e.g. Tom Davis) that the Republican bench is suddenly so thin.
This regrettable state of affairs is also an opportunity. Newly converted Republican Artur Davis should consider a challenge to Warner. If Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) does not retire in 2014, state delegate Barbara Comstock should as well. In other words, some of the less well known but highly capable Republicans should take a chance, stick their necks out and see if they can revive a somewhat lackluster line-up.
Look at the example of Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq and Afghanistan war vet who only some foreign policy hawks had heard of, is now a star in the freshman class. Surely there are some military or business leaders (as Warner was before his run for governor) who could break through. If elected Republicans, grassroots activists and conservative think tankers and operatives who reside in Virginia (there are a ton of them) don’t start recruiting and/or dipping their toes in the pool for statewide office, the transformation of Virginia from red to blue state will be complete, in no small part because the GOP lacks a first-string team.