Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder says a centrist approach offers the key to victory for the field of candidates seeking to lead the commonwealth.

The ex-governor, a Democrat, weighed in on the race after Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling announced Wednesday that he would not seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2013. That effectively clears the way for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II to claim the GOP ticket on next year’s ballot.

So far, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe is the only candidate seeking the Democratic nomination. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) announced last week that he would not seek another term as governor.

“Virginia is not a red or blue state,” Wilder said. “It’s very independent-minded. [The last election] wasn’t based on liberal or conservative, right or left. It was based on who was best positioned to move Virginia forward. I think you’re going to have that same dichotomy coming forth.”

Wilder, 81, was elected Virginia’s first black governor in 1990 and he remains active in state politics. He said that while the two contenders for the job present a stark contrast that could have partisan appeal, they both need to appeal to the state’s increasingly independent electorate.

“McAuliffe has to continue to sell himself to Virginia,” Wilder said. “And Cuccinelli has received a great deal of attention. But does he want to run on that, or something that would be more closely related to the everyday voters?”