He had to mention it.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (L), Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (C) and Lt Gov. Bill Bolling (R) (Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post)

Bolling said he anticipates a “spirited debate” with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), who announced last week that he would challenge the lieutenant governor for their party’s gubernatorial nomination.

“I wish I didn’t have to say anything about 2013,’’ he told the crowd at the GOP Advance. “In my world, we wouldn’t even talk about 2013 until 2012. Unfortunately because of the events of the last days we no longer have that opportunity.”

Bolling reminded activists that twice in recent history have a lieutenant governor and attorney general worked out a deal and not run against each other for the state’s top job.

The last time of course was three years ago when Bolling and then-Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) hatched a plan: McDonnell would run unopposed for the GOP nomination for governor, and four years later, McDonnell would back Bolling for the state’s top job.

Bolling said he and McDonnell wanted to avoid friends fighting with each other and their party being divided.

“We did something that doesn’t happen very often. We worked it out,’’ he said. “We couldn’t allow ourselves to become divided or distracted if we wanted to win 2009.’’

Cuccinelli was in New York this weekend for the GOP presidential forum and did not attend the Advance, which came days after his announcement.

“I had hoped that we would be able to do the same in 2013,’’ Bolling said. ”But apparently that’s not meant to be. That’s okay. Everybody has the right to run. This is America. That’s the way it works. I’m a big boy.”

Bolling encouraged activists to be united in trying to elect a Republican senator and president next year.

“We will have a spirited debate when we get to 2013 at the appropriate time about who our party nominates for governor, and I look forward to that debate. But now is not the time. I hope we will all leave the Advance united,’’ Bolling said.

Listen to his full remarks here.