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Mr. Bolling exits (sigh)

November 29, 2012 12:10 am

LT. GOV. BILL BOLLING is one of the most reasonable and affable politicians around. So news that he is dropping out of the 2013 governor's race is sad indeed.

Mr. Bolling, who made the announcement yesterday, has had his eye on the Executive Mansion for years. He's abandoning that dream now because he believes that the new GOP nomination process--by convention rather than primary election--will make it impossible for him to win.

He's probably right about that. Conventions draw the red-meat eaters, those folks who live and breathe politics while the rest of us are getting our kids to soccer games. They would no doubt favor Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Tea Party paladin and passionate defender of all things respectably right wing, over Mr. Bolling. A fight between the two candidates would force Republicans to "take sides against their friends in local committees all across the state," Mr. Bolling said. To avoid such bloodshed, he's stepping aside.

In abandoning his bid for the governorship, Mr. Bolling leaves the race to the red-hot Mr. Cuccinelli and the true-blue Terry McAuliffe, former head of the Democratic National Committee, former Bill Clinton aide, a wealthy businessman and venture capitalist who has never held elective office. It should be a firecracker of a campaign, and since it comes in an "off" year, expect national political operatives to become very invested in it.

But back to Mr. Bolling. Down-to-Earth and self-effacing, he has served the commonwealth well for many years. He worked his way up the political ladder, first as a Hanover County supervisors. In 1995, he won the (then) 4th District State Senate seat in a squeaker of an election, defeating the incumbent, Democrat Elmo Cross, by just 574 votes out of 50,000 cast.

Ten years later, Mr. Bolling ran for lieutenant governor and just nipped State Sen. Leslie Byrne in a Democratic year. He served ably under Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, compromising when he could and standing firm when he couldn't (he strongly opposed Mr. Kaine's closure of state highway rest areas). Within four years, Mr. Bolling's leadership and political abilities were recognized outside the state--he was elected president of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.

In Virginia, governors may not run for re-election. Lieutenant governors may. So Mr. Bolling reapplied for his job in 2009, clearing the way for then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell to carry his party's flag. That was "an incredibly magnanimous step," says Mr. McDonnell, helping to ensure "a united, reinvigorated Republican Party in 2009 that swept all three statewide offices by historical margins."

In his second term, Mr. Bolling has headed the governor's jobs program and adroitly managed a state Senate split 20-20 along party lines. His understated political style is a welcome contrast to the crash-'em, bash-'em hyperpartisanship of many politicians.

Mr. Bolling's abilities are too valuable to let slip away. Let's hope he'll find a place where he can continue to serve the commonwealth for years to come.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.