- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell announced Tuesday he will resign to focus full time on his bid for governor.

“For the last three years, I’ve had a terrific opportunity to serve as Virginia’s 44th attorney general,” said Mr. McDonnell, the lone Republican running to replace Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat. “But now it’s time for me to fully begin a new challenge in my life.”

Mr. McDonnell, who narrowly won election to the attorney general’s post in 2005, said his resignation will be effective Feb. 20, eight days before the scheduled adjournment of this year’s legislative session in Richmond.

The date allows Mr. McDonnell to continue pushing his legislative agenda in the coming days, but means he will be free from the position’s requirements as the campaign heats up.

The Republican called the attorney general’s position “the best job I’ve ever had” and said he arrived at his decision with a heavy heart. But his resignation follows historical precedent: Every attorney general of either major party who is running for governor has resigned from the position since 1985, McDonnell officials said.

“A campaign for governor demands a full-time candidate,” Mr. McDonnell said. “The office of the attorney general is the commonwealth’s law firm and demands a full-time attorney general.”

The move not only allows Mr. McDonnell to hit the campaign trail full time, but will let him raise funds that could be crucial in what is expected to be a high-stakes, high-dollar battle for the Executive Mansion - largely because of the presence of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, one of three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination.

State law prohibits lawmakers and statewide officials from soliciting or accepting donations while the General Assembly is in regular session. This year’s session is scheduled to adjourn Feb. 28.

Mr. McDonnell so far has outraised his potential competitors, who also include former state Delegate Brian J. Moran, who resigned his position in December to focus on the race, and state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County. Both are Democrats.

The Republican had more than $2 million on hand as of the state’s last campaign-finance reporting deadline.

But Mr. McAuliffe, who also headed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s failed presidential bid and is a close friend of the Clintons, raised nearly $1 million in a roughly six-week period and last month hit up wealthy donors during a fundraiser held in New York City.

Mr. McDonnell said Mr. McAuliffe’s entry into the race had no influence on his decision to resign and that he has had a plan “for several years” on how to successfully run the race. Democrats will choose their nominee in a June 9 primary election.

“Whatever their decisions are aren’t going to affect our campaign,” Mr. McDonnell said. “I thought this was the right thing to do for our taxpayers, the right thing to do for our campaign.”

The Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House will be responsible for appointing a successor to Mr. McDonnell, who said he is recommending Chief Deputy Attorney General Bill Mims, a former Republican state senator from Loudoun County, for the job.

Mr. McDonnell said he has spoken with General Assembly leaders and that he is confident Mr. Mims will be appointed. Kaine spokesman Gordon Hickey said the governor also would back the selection.

“The governor has a high regard for Bill Mims,” Mr. Hickey said. “He has worked well with the governor’s office and the governor would be supportive.”

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