- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Virginia Lt. Gov. William T. Bolling said yesterday he will not run for governor, clearing the way for Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell and giving Republicans perhaps their first solid chance in nearly a decade of recapturing the governorship.

“This turns everything in the past decade on its head,” said McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker Martin. “Democrats are fighting with each other while Republicans are uniting.”

A Democrat has been Virginia governor since Mark Warner won in 2001. Tim Kaine won the job in 2005 after Mr. Warner completed a four-year term limit. The last Republican to be Virginia governor was James S. Gilmore III, elected in 1997.

J. Scott Leake, a spokesman for Virginia Senate Republicans, said Mr. Bolling’s decision gives Republicans “an opportunity for some real unity in the party, far in advance of the election.”

Mr. Bolling said personal and professional obligations kept him for running.

“As much as I would like to be the governor of Virginia, I concluded that 2009 was not the right time to embark on such a campaign,” he said. “Because I’m not independently wealthy and do not currently have a full-time government position, I have to work for a living, just like each of you, to pay the mortgage, college tuition, the power bill and all the rest.”

Borrowing a line from the movie “Dirty Harry,” he said: “A man has to know his limits.”

Mr. Bolling’s decision and former governor Sen. George Allen’s decision in January not to run for the job give Mr. McDonnell a clear path toward securing the party nomination.

Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Bolling appear prepared to run as the Republican ticket.

Mr. McDonnell, whom party insiders say has consistently been more aggressive than Mr. Bolling in pursuing the governorship, sent an e-mail to thousands of supporters minutes before Mr. Bolling’s announcement that stated: “As I begin to prepare for my campaign for Governor, I greatly look forward to running with Bill.”

“The first key to winning back the office of governor is returning unity to our party,” Mr. McDonnell said. “By Republicans uniting early, and listening to all Virginians, while the Democrats face a lengthy primary contest, we will gain a significant and powerful advantage heading into the general election next November. Bill and I will work hard to ensure this happens.”

Mr. Bolling said the ticket “can beat anything the Democrats throw our way.”

Republicans also hope it provides them with an opportunity to draw a stark contrast between them and the Democratic candidates for governor, Sen. R. Creigh Deeds and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian J. Moran.

“They have two candidates who are in for a bitter fight, and they have one candidate in Deeds who has already lost to Bob McDonnell,” said Josh Noland, spokesman for the Republican Party of Virginia. “You have another candidate who doesn’t have any appeal outside Northern Virginia in Moran. That rolled into one makes it an exciting time for Republicans.”

Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William County Republican and candidate for state party chairman, compared the likely Virginia gubernatorial race with the presidential race — Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York in a tight Democratic primary with likely Republican candidate Sen. John McCain waiting to challenge the winner.

“I think you are going to have Brian Moran and Deeds duking it out,” he said. “And it is likely you will have the McDonnell-Bolling ticket unopposed and moving together toward a general election strategy. That is good for us.”

However, Democrats said Republicans are getting ahead of themselves.

“In 2006, the Republican Party was united behind George Allen, and Jim Webb is now the senator of Virginia,” said Moran spokesman Jesse Ferguson. “It is not a question of whether they are united. It is a question of whether they have changed their priorities to reflect what the people of Virginia want.”

The shifting demographics in Northern Virginia, an influx of new voters and party infighting have resulted in some tough losses recently for Republicans.

They lost the last two races for governor, Mr. Allen’s Senate seat in 2006 and the Virginia Senate last year, and they have had their majority dwindle in the House.

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