RICHMOND — Terry McAuliffe, the presumed Democratic nominee for governor, said Thursday that he would have a place for Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling in his administration.
“He’s been very active on job creation issues that he and I have talked about,” McAuliffe said. “And if I was fortunate enough to be elected the governor of the commonwealth of Virginia, I’d love to have him bring his expertise and background and his knowledge to work with me, so that we can continue to work together to create jobs in a very tough global economy.”
McAuliffe made the comment Thursday after touring QTS, a huge Richmond-area data center serving the federal government and private industry. He said he’d phoned Bolling Wednesday, one day after the lieutenant governor had announced that he would not make an independent bid for governor against McAuliffe and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R). They are vying to succeed term-limited Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) .
It was not clear if Bolling, who has complained that he sometimes doesn’t feel at home in his own party, would be any more comfortable in a McAuliffe administration. Through a spokeswoman, Bolling declined to comment.
“I don’t know what his thoughts are going to be,” McAuliffe said.
“I would have a very diverse cabinet,” McAuliffe went on to say. “I would have Democrats, I would have Republicans, I would have independents. The partisanship, when it comes to job creation, that is something that would not exist for me. ... If you’re willing to work with me on job development, economic development, I’ll work with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your party affiliation doesn’t matter.”
Asked later if McAuliffe was offering a cabinet spot to Bolling, McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said that would be premature. But Schwerin said McAuliffe “looks forward to being able to work with Bill Bolling on economic issues.”
Bolling has served as the state’s chief jobs creation officer in McDonnell’s cabinet.
Cuccinelli’s campaign said it did not take McAuliffe’s comment seriously.
“This is just another political stunt from the former Chairman of the Democrat Party, because yesterday Terry McAuliffe couldn’t even name the positions in the cabinet,” Cuccinelli spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.
Wilcox was referring to a recent Virginian-Pilot article, which reported that McAuliffe, having been asked if he could name positions in the governor’s cabinet, responded: “Maybe could, Maybe couldn’t.”
Bolling had been openly exploring an independent bid since late November, when he conceded that tea-party star Cuccinelli likely had him beat for the GOP nod once the nomination method got switched from an open primary to a closed party convention. The lieutenant governor had tried to position himself as the moderate option between what he cast as two extremes: the combative attorney general and the former Democratic National Committee chairman.
The premise of that threatened indie campaign flattered McAuliffe no more than Cuccinelli; Bolling said he saw an opening because he thought Virginians would find both nominees distasteful.
But McAuliffe nonetheless sidled up to Bolling as he mulled the run. He phoned Bolling after he dropped out of the GOP race, and in January paid him a hourlong visit at the lieutenant governor’s Richmond office.
Bolling said in early January that the attorney general had not similarly reached out to him, saying, “I haven’t heard diddly squat from the attorney general.”
But in late January, Cuccinelli and Bolling met privately and spoke at length, Bolling’s office disclosed Thursday. They have not spoken since.
Some political observers see McAuliffe’s overtures as an appeal for independent voters who might have found Bolling attractive.
“I wanted to call up and say, you know, ‘I know this was not an easy decision for you,’” McAuliffe said of this week’s call to Bolling. “He obviously wanted to be involved. He wanted to run as an independent. And I think he has plainly said, he probably couldn’t raise the funds in order to do it. And I felt bad for him. It’s something he wanted to do. I think a lot of Virginians ought to pick up the phone and call Bill Bolling.”
This report has been updated.
Correction: An earlier version of this story inadvertantly left out the word “not” out of this sentence: “Cuccinelli’s campaign said it did not take McAuliffe’s comment seriously.” It has been corrected.