Virginia’s incumbent Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling helped Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly defeat Republican Ken Cuccinelli in several ways. Not only did Bolling refuse to endorse Cuccinelli, he also transferred $446,674 remaining in his gubernatorial campaign committee to his newly formed political action committee, the Virginia Mainstream Project, which spent no money to support Cuccinelli.
Bolling’s new political action committee was ostensibly established to support Republican candidates running for the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013 and the Virginia State Senate in 2015. Its relative inactivity, however, suggests it was more likely a place for Bolling to park his 2013 campaign cash as he worked behind the scenes to undermine Cuccinelli in hopes that he himself would become the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2017. It secured only two additional donations of $500, and spent a mere $45,760 on nine Delegate candidates in 2013, leaving it with a healthy bank account of $399,993 in cash unspent on election day.
In addition to its minimal spending in support of Republican House of Delegate candidates in 2013, Bolling’s Virginia Mainstream Project was not particularly successful with the money it spent. As Mark Fitzgibbons reported at Virginia Free Citizen, the Virginia Mainstream Project spent $5,380 in a losing primary contest “in Virginia’s 29th District where Tea Party-backed Mark Berg defeated Bolling-backed, 28-year incumbent Delegate Beverly Sherwood.”
Behind the scenes, Bolling was even more antagonistic to Cuccinelli. When the Virginia Republican Party chose in November 2012 to select its 2013 gubernatorial nominee in a convention rather than primary, Bolling announced that he was withdrawing from the race to obtain the Republican party’s nomination for governor, but he kept open the possibility that he would run as an independent until March.
In January, Bolling met with Terry McAuliffe, then the likely Democratic nominee for governor, in his Lieutenant Governor’s office in Richmond. In March, McAuliffe publicly stated that there would be room for Bolling in his administration if he won the governor’s race.
Then in August, Bolling’s long time consultant Boyd Marcus, whom he paid $109,818 from 2010 to 2013 “shocked the political world,” as the Washington Post reported, by going to work for the McAuliffe campaign. During the month of September, the McAuliffe campaign paid Marcus a hefty $20,000 consulting fee.
Bolling made the first public moves indicating his support for McAuliffe in September, when the Washington Post reported that he called Dendy Young, the head of TechPAC, the political arm of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, in an attempt to persuade that group to reverse their endorsement of Cuccinelli. Both Bolling and Young acknowledge the two spoke on the phone about the endorsement, but both men deny that Bolling attempted to influence Young to reverse the group’s endorsement.
Despite those denials, most Republicans believe that Bolling’s phone call was clearly an attempt to support McAuliffe. As the Washington Post reported, “[i]t was seemingly the first indication that Bolling had taken an active role to promote the Democratic nominee in the governor’s race.”
Reaction to that call, as the culmination of Bolling’s year long efforts to undermine Cuccinelli’s election, may well have doomed his own political future within the Republican Party.
As Bob Holsworth, a former Virginia Commonwealth University professor observed, “I think his future as a candidate within the Republican Party as presently constituted is nil.” Holsworth noted that Bolling was hoping that “if there’s a [Cuccinelli] defeat, the reaction among moderate Republicans would be so strong as to provide a new opportunity.”
Now that Cuccinelli has lost narrowly to McAuliffe, a loss that help from Bolling may well have averted, Bolling’s expectation that moderate Republicans would rally to his own candidacy in 2017 appears to have been illusory. As Holsworth told the Washington Post, “[Bolling] didn’t have a future from the time he started dissing Cuccinelli, and this is just an escalation of what’s been going on for the last couple of months.”