Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling ended months of speculation by announcing Tuesday that he will not run for governor as an independent candidate, citing his disdain for the political process and his longtime loyalty to the Republican Party.
Bolling's long-anticipated decision paves the way for a two-man contest between Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
Previously, Bolling had indicated he would announce his decision on Thursday. But in an email to supporters Tuesday morning following a trip to the Bahamas, Bolling admitted he "was not confident I could raise enough money to run a winning campaign." He estimated that he'd need $10 million to 15 million to compete.
Bolling did not endorse Cuccinelli in his email.
At one time, Bolling was the heir apparent to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. The two cut a deal in 2009 under which Bolling agreed to run for a second term as lieutenant governor instead of running for governor. In exchange, McDonnell agreed to back Bolling for governor this year.
But those plans were foiled when Cuccinelli, who was not part of the deal, chose to run for governor and helped orchestrate a takeover of the state party that switched the nominating process from a primary to a convention. Bolling bowed out of the Republican race in November but immediately fanned rumors that he would run as an independent, hoping there were enough voters turned off by both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe.
Those rumors were put to rest Tuesday. Bolling said he will finish his term as lieutenant governor and return to the private sector.
"My decision was heavily influenced by a growing dissatisfaction with the current political environment in Virginia," Bolling said. "While I still value public service a great deal, the truth is that I just don't find the political process to be as enjoyable as I once did. Because of this, I decided that the time has come for me to step away from elected office and look for other ways to serve Virginia."
Read Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's full statement below:
"When I suspended my campaign for the Republican Party's nomination for Governor, I indicated that I wanted to be a more independent voice for Virginia, speaking out more objectively on the important issues facing our state. Over the past several months, I have done just that. I have sought to call Virginia to a higher purpose, focusing more on policy than politics and more on the next generation than the next election.
"This more independent approach to governing led to widespread speculation that I was thinking about reviving my campaign for Governor as an Independent candidate. While that was not my initial intention, the reaction to a possible Independent campaign has been overwhelming, and for the past three months I have been going through a "due diligence" process, trying to objectively assess the feasibility of an Independent campaign.
"Throughout this process my focus has been on one thing - what's best for Virginia? I love Virginia and I want to make certain that we have a Governor who is committed to governing our state in a mainstream way; a Governor who will keep his focus on the big issues facing our state and work with Republicans and Democrats to solve problems, get things done and make Virginia a better place.
"I'm confident I could be that kind of Governor. Throughout my career in public service, I have done my best to stand strong for the conservative values I believe in, while at the same time respecting the views of others and promoting consensus building and results, as opposed to confrontation and gridlock. That's the kind of pragmatic, results oriented leadership we need to make certain that Virginia remains on the right track.
"Given the current political dynamics in Virginia, the prospects of an Independent campaign were very appealing to me, and based on the positive feedback I had received from business leaders, community leaders and citizens all across our state, I am confident that I could have run a credible and competitive campaign and made a positive contribution to the public debate. In many ways I would have enjoyed participating in such a campaign a great deal and I think it could have been good for Virginia.
"However, after a great deal of consideration I have decided that I will not be an Independent candidate for Governor this year. There were many factors that influenced my decision to forgo such a campaign.
"First, I know how difficult Independent campaigns can be. The biggest challenge an Independent candidate faces is fundraising. You can have a winning message, but if you don't have the resources to effectively communicate that message to voters you cannot win. To run a winning campaign I would have needed to raise at least $10-$15M. That's a very difficult thing to do without the resources of a major political party and national donors at your disposal. Based on my discussions with key donors over the past three weeks, I was confident I could raise enough money to run a competitive campaign, but I was not confident I could raise enough money to run a winning campaign. While it is possible that these resources could have been secured over time if the campaign progressed as we envisioned, that was an uncertain outcome and it was too big a risk for me to ask my donors to take.
"Second, running as an Independent candidate would have required me to sever my longstanding relationship with the Republican Party. While I am very concerned about the current direction of the Republican Party, I still have many dear friends in the Republican Party, people who have been incredibly supportive of me over the years. I have tremendous respect for them and I am very grateful for everything they have done for me. I value these friendships a great deal and I feel a deep sense of personal obligation to those who have done so much to make my success possible. I have heard from many of these friends over the past several months. They have encouraged me to not give up on the Republican Party and continue working to get our party back on a more mainstream course. Maintaining their friendship and respect means more to me than the prospects of being Governor and I was unwilling to jeopardize these longstanding relationships by embarking on an Independent campaign.
"Finally, my decision was heavily influenced by a growing dissatisfaction with the current political environment in Virginia. Politics is much different today than it was when I was first elected. In many ways I fear that the "Virginia way" of doing things is rapidly being replaced by the "Washington way" of doing things and that's not good for Virginia. As a result, the political process has become much more ideologically driven, hyper-partisan and mean spirited. Rigid ideologies and personal political agendas are too often placed ahead of sound public policy and legitimate policy disagreements too quickly degenerate into unwarranted personal attacks. This makes it more difficult to govern effectively and get things done. While I still value public service a great deal, the truth is that I just don't find the political process to be as enjoyable as I once did. Because of this, I decided that the time has come for me to step away from elected office and look for other ways to serve Virginia.
"For all of these reasons, I decided that I will not be an Independent candidate for Governor in 2013. However, I truly appreciate the confidence and support of those who had encouraged me to do so and I hope they will understand and respect my decision.
"There is no higher honor than the privilege of serving one's fellow citizens in the halls of government. That privilege has been mine for the past 22 years. I am very grateful for the confidence the people of Virginia have placed in me. As a county Supervisor, a State Senator and Lieutenant Governor, I have done my best to serve them well. I hope I have been able to make a positive contribution to the betterment of our state.
"I look forward to continuing my work with Governor McDonnell and the rest of our great team in the months to come. We have accomplished a lot over the past three years, but we still have a lot of important work to do before our term of office is over. After that, I will return to the private sector and look for other ways to serve Virginia. I love Virginia and I will always be willing to do my part to help make Virginia a better place.
"I wish Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Cuccinelli well as they begin their campaigns. One of these two candidates will have the responsibility of leading Virginia into the future. This is a tremendous responsibility and it should not be taken lightly. I encourage them to run campaigns that are worthy of Virginia; campaigns that focus on the big issues facing our state and offer a positive vision for the future of Virginia. That's the kind of Governor the people of Virginia want and deserve.
"And I encourage the people of Virginia to carefully consider the decision they will make this November. Our priority should be on electing a Governor who has the ability to effectively and responsibly govern our state and provide the mainstream leadership we need to solve problems, get things done and make Virginia a better place to live. Nothing less should be acceptable."