In the 2013 Virginia governor's race, forget about grand rolling out ceremonies: GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is going straight for the jugular of his primary opponent Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Bolling released a statement on Dec. 1, saying he was "very disappointed by Mr. Cuccinelli's decision to run for Governor in 2013. During the 2009 campaign, and since taking office in 2010, Mr. Cuccinelli had repeatedly stated that he intended to seek re-election as Attorney General in 2013 and that is what I and other Republican leaders had expected him to do. Unfortunately, he has now decided to put his own personal ambition ahead of the best interests of the Commonwealth and the Republican Party."
Bolling then cited his own history of deferring the 2009 race to then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell, seeking re-election instead.
"Unlike Mr. Cuccinelli, I set aside my personal ambition and did what was right for the Commonwealth and our party," said Bolling. He later added, "I have consistently stated my intention to run for Governor in 2013, and Mr. Cuccinelli's announcement will not alter my intended course."
In his own statement, McDonnell made his preferences clear.
"While I do prefer a scenario in which both men continue to serve in statewide office together going forward, I certainly respect the right of the attorney general to make his own decision regarding future races. Since early 2008, I've been clear that I will strongly support Bill Bolling for Governor in 2013," said McDonnell.
There are several reasons why this campaign will be remarkably different than past races.
First is timing. Most Virginia races don't kick off two calendar years before the election.
Second, by directly attacking Cuccinelli, Bolling is setting the groundwork for what could become a nasty 1.5 year squabble. While gubernatorial primaries do get heated -- see Brian Moran's reaction to Terry McAuliffe during the 2009 race -- bad blood usually does not spill out into public until at least a few months before voting.
Cuccinelli also said in a statement that he "will not resign as attorney general to run for governor."
The elected attorney general in Virginia has run for governor every four years since 1993. However, all of them resigned from office during their final year: McDonnell on March 29, 2009; Jerry Kilgore on Feb. 1, 2005; Mark Earley on June 4, 2001; Jim Gilmore on June 11, 1997; and Mary Sue Terry on Jan. 29, 1993.
Kilgore, Bolling and McDonnell faced intra-party opposition in 2005 though only Cuccinelli did in 2009. The difference for Bolling since 2005 is former Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton, a Republican, was much more of a congenial moderate compared to the conservative firebrand Cuccinelli. In fact, McDonnell appointed Connaughton secretary of the Virginia Department of Transportation.