Gubernatorial Candidates Put Decision Dates on Calendar
In at least three gubernatorial contests between 2013 and 2014, major potential candidates have given themselves rough deadlines to make decisions about whether they will run. But none of the possible contenders expect to do so in the next month. Here is a rundown of where things stand in the three races:
Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is first up on the calendar. The spurned Republican who dropped out of the GOP primary against state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) late last year said this week that he will announce whether he is seeking an independent bid for the Nov. 5 general election by March 14.
Bolling has also adopted the catchphrase of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe's campaign, noting that as an independent candidate he could pursue "mainstream" policies if he runs. The "mainstream" message is one McAuliffe has pushed frequently in stump speeches and e-mail blasts since last year.
McAuliffe is hoping to present himself as a business-minded Virginia Democrat in the mold of Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine while painting Cuccinelli as too conservative for Virginia's electorate. Bolling supplemented McAuliffe's main argument, criticizing Cuccinelli by telling Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro, "It's like he's written off trying to reach mainstream voters." So perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that McAuliffe suggested that he is open to giving Bolling a job in his administration if he's elected.
While Bolling's entry would likely hurt Cuccinelli given that the two of them had similar legislative records while serving in the state Senate together, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabbato argued this week that "Bolling has been taking such moderate positions, he could actually end up hurting Terry McAuliffe as much as Cuccinelli." McAuliffe has his own rhetorical baggage, which gives conservatives easy fodder for opposition research and may leave independents and moderates searching for someone besides McAuliffe and Cuccinelli.
Another potential three-way race is brewing in Maine. Unlike the 2013 contest in Virginia, none of the three major contenders have officially declared their candidacies yet, but all are assumed likely to run. On Thursday, former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci told the Portland Press Herald that he planned to make a decision "in the April time frame."
That came two days after his GOP Gov. Paul LePage attacked Baldacci during his State of the State address without identifying him by name. Meanwhile, LePage's campaign committee criticized Baldacci's record in a 700-word e-mail to supporters on the same day.
LePage is still playing coy about when he'll officially decide to run for re-election but his 2010 independent opponent Eliot Cutler appears ready to make the jump this summer. Cutler filed his exploratory paperwork last month. The Bangor Daily News reported that his 2010 campaign manager Ted O'Meara said Cutler should be making a formal announcement "potentially in the late summer or early fall."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said last month that he will decide in either June or July whether to mount a fourth bid for the executive mansion in Texas. All systems appear ready to launch for the Republican, who claims $6 million cash-on-hand. That's because, according to Perry, three-term Attorney General Greg Abbott agreed not to challenge him in a GOP primary if he runs again. Abbott sports a three-to-one cash-on-hand advantage over Perry.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Abbott "could consider running for another statewide position, perhaps lieutenant governor." His name recognition and $18 million warchest would make him an instant frontrunner for any office he sought. Republicans hold every statewide office in Texas and control both houses of the state legislature, suggesting that anyone's best chance for defeating Perry would be in the GOP primary. Absent such a challenge, the pathway to another four years in office for America's longest-serving governor appears clear at the moment.