It’s official: The 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race will be a colorful one.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, dropped out of the race on Wednesday, paving the way for a likely showdown between Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe.
Bolling said he’s withdrawing from the race because he’s determined he cannot overcome the challenges resulting from new nominating rules. In June, the State Central Committee changed the nominating process from a primary to a closed party convention.
“I reluctantly concluded that the decision to change the method of nomination from a primary to a convention created too many obstacles for us to overcome,” Bolling said.
A convention nominating process in Virginia is thought to favor a Republican like Cuccinelli, a solid conservative who boasts of widespread grassroots support.
“I know how divisive conventions can be, and I was concerned that a prolonged campaign between Mr. Cuccinelli and me could create deep divisions within our party,” he said.
Bolling’s departure from the race essentially assures that Cuccinelli, who has displayed a knack for drawing national attention as Virginia’s attorney general, will be the Republican nominee.
The lieutenant governor – who was long thought of as next in line for the governor’s office – lamented how he and Cuccinelli weren’t able to form a “united Republican ticket in 2013” with Bolling at the top of the ticket.
“However, late last year Mr. Cuccinelli unexpectedly announced that he intended to challenge me for the Republican Party’s nomination for Governor,” he said.
Despite this apparent resentment, Cuccinelli praised Bolling on Wednesday.
“Throughout this race, I have kept to the premise that Bill and I are allies in governance, even if temporary competitors in politics,” Cuccinelli said. “Bill Bolling is a good man — a true public servant who has worked hard throughout his career to make Virginia a better place to live and raise our families.”
As for the Democrats, former Democratic National Committee chairman and 2009 gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is thought to be the leading contender. Mark Warner, the former Democratic governor now serving as Senator, has opted against running for the seat again.
McAuliffe responded to the news by saying, “It is disappointing that more mainstream Virginia Republicans are being driven out of leadership by the far-right.”
“Virginia voters have repeatedly made clear that they prefer mainstream leaders building consensus instead of politicians pursuing their own ideological agenda,” he said. “I intend on running a campaign that will unite Virginians across parties who share my focus putting job creation and common sense fiscal responsibility above divisive partisan crusades.”