This past week Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling announced that he was dropping out of the race for Virginia's governor, but left open the door to his running as an independent. He issued a disappointingly divisive statement that Richard Viguerie called Bolling's Charlie Crist moment.
Bolling took an unfortunate and cheap shot against his primary opponent and now-presumptive Republican nominee, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Bolling's statement was a dénouement of betrayal to his conservative voters and supporters. We have come to expect that from establishment Republicans who somehow feel entitled to support from principled conservatives -- right up to the point that they no longer need us.
Bill Bolling was a state senator from Virginia's heartland with eyes on running for Lieutenant Governor when I first heard him speak. At the time, I knew little about the 30-something state senator Ken Cuccinelli from the very blue county of Fairfax.
By pedigree of district, Bolling would have seemed to be the true conservative. After all, which conservatives ever win in heavily Democratic districts except those who compromise their principles?
Back then, Bolling emphasized his conservatism enough to impress me to attend other events. It was at one small event that I suggested to him that he campaign on requiring an audit of state government. His eyes lit up, and he wrote down the idea. That was heartening.
I later attended a fundraiser for Bolling but found no movement conservatives in attendance, just lobbyists it seemed. Bolling would eventually serve as Lieutenant Governor during the governorship of Democrat Tim Kaine, and a second term under the current Republican Governor Bob McDonnell.
It was during Bob McDonnell's administration, which came to power under the Tea Party surge of 2009, that a state audit came to fruition. The audit was limited to transportation funds, but it was successful nonetheless. The full and annual audit of the entire state government that I had hoped to see never happened. Republicans in power had success with a conservative idea -- auditing government -- but then they failed to follow through. That was disheartening.
In his exit from the governor's race, Bolling insulted those of us who believe in and fight for small-government principles. He would do well to strongly endorse Cuccinelli and make amends with conservatives who would have voted for him had he been the Republican nominee for governor.
Ken Cuccinelli's statement about Bolling's exit was nothing but gracious. Cuccinelli is a gracious guy who also happens to be a fighter for principles. It is this latter trait that his opponents will try to use to define him "as a radical, angry, impractical ideologue" and as the "new face of the far right."
The fact is that Ken is a compassionate and kind man. He is also a principled official. He is pro-women, pro-children and pro-environment. He also understands what Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 78, which is that the Constitution is our "fundamental law" designed to protect liberty. Liberty isn't anti-anyone. It is pro-everyone.
Cuccinelli's proven that he is true to the rule of law whether it involves private interests or the government, and whether either is violating or following the law. He understands, however, that government power is limited by the rule of law. Cuccinelli has refused to take action when he lacked legal authority -- even when conservatives wished he had. Ken won't violate legal constraints on his power even to win votes. That is a rarity among elected officials who too often think that they can do good by exceeding their authority.
Ken is now the conservative 'it' candidate following 2012. He's running in a state that went to President Obama and Democratic Senator-elect Tim Kaine. His candidacy will draw national resources to defeat him because the left believes it cannot let the conservative phoenix rise from the ashes. He will be portrayed as something he's not.
The Republican establishment proved its ineffectiveness in 2012 despite rigging the party rules and years of laying blame at the feet of principled conservatives for their losses. Should they make Bill Bolling's mistake by dissing conservatives over Cuccinelli, there will be hell to pay.
Establishment Republicans can learn from Cuccinelli. He translates life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness into policies to govern in the 21st century. Establishment Republicans may pay lip service to those First Principles, but their policy choices often wind up betraying them whether for expediency or by a lack of courage and leadership. Often, they fail to understand the intellectual and moral underpinnings of our First Principles in the first place.
Ken is, like Reagan was, a perpetual student of the reasons why America's form of government is based in the consent of the people. We have a structure of government designed to protect liberty under the rule of law that in the first place actually governs government itself before government may lawfully and morally make, enforce and adjudicate laws for the people.
Ken understands and articulates that well-paying jobs are a better way to feed a family than food stamps, that prosperity under free markets best sustains the environment, that strong families are the best progenitor for a good education and a healthy economy, and that equality among all people is preserved only when government is constrained by a paramount law governing those in government, who by human nature have the prejudices and other moral foibles of those who lack government's awesome power.
In his exit from the race, Bill Bolling said, "The party has to decide whether we're more interested in engaging in great ideological debates, or winning elections and earning the right to lead."
In 2012, the Republican Party failed to engage in any great ideological debate. In Ken Cuccinelli, Republicans have someone who has proven that engaging in the debate is essential to winning elections.
Visit his campaign website when you have a minute. Or take a moment and read his remarks to Virginia Republicans at the GOP Advance event Saturday, December 1st:
It is great to be here with Republicans from all over Virginia. I wanted to share just a few words and phrases with you:
"On the way out"
"Out of touch"
These are the words and phrases that those in the media and the professional pundit class have used to describe Republicans and the Republican Party, and more specifically conservatives, in the days following election day 2012.
And so like so many times before, the calls for change, re-evaluation, remake and retreat coming from those in the media who know so much about what the American people -- what Virginians -- want or need. Well, one thing I know that Virginians don't want, don't need, and sure as heck can't afford: two Democrat parties!
Look, friends, Virginia once again has an opportunity. This is an opportunity to show the country that conservatism isn't dead; that it's not old or worn out; and that it's still alive and thriving!
Following the 1992 presidential election, amid the calls for re-branding of the GOP, Virginia Republicans nominated and elected George Allen, overwhelmingly. His message? Less regulation; less interference from the "federales" as he called them, and a renewed focus on economic development. George talked about revamping, but not revamping the GOP as the pundit class was clamoring for. So, what was revamped? Virginia's criminal justice system. Virginia's education system. Virginia's welfare system.
The same thing happened following the 1996 presidential election. We nominated Jim Gilmore amid the media's calls for a new, watered-down Republican Party. Jim focused on economic development, and to this day, we all still pay a lot less in car taxes.
Then in 2008 the bottom fell out. Virginia went for a Democrat for President for the first time since 1964. We were in trouble, we were on our way out, we were fading away ....
So what happened? We nominated (in 2009) what the other side and their media allies called "the most conservative ticket in Virginia history." Sound familiar? They recycled that press release again this week, and we'll see it again in May regardless of who we nominate for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. But in 2009 the Democrats didn't disappoint. It seemed they accused us of everything short of murder.
Yet over the past three years, Governor McDonnell has kept his promises and kept his focus on the issues, bringing in new jobs, growing Virginia's economy, and being a proper steward of your tax money.
I would point out that since Doug Wilder was Governor, we've had five governors. Three of them kept their campaign promises, and two of them broke their campaign promises. I'm proud to remind you that the three who worked to keep their promises were all the Republicans, and the two who broke their promises were the two Democrats.
So, what will people say four years from now? That depends on you, and on what we do between now and November 2013.
Campaigns are about issues and ideas, but they are fueled by you. The press has made a lot of the incredible machine that turned out the vote for President Obama. We need to respect their work in generating that voter turnout. And then we need to get about the business of competing with it.
Together we're not going to do micro-targeting; we're going to do targeting. That means we're going to talk to one voter at a time, all across Virginia, in every community and neighborhood. And we're going to do it in person, not via TV or mail, but in person, as much as humanly possible.
I've been outspent in every one of my races, but we've won them all with the help of people like you and many others all over Virginia. This year they won with grassroots, but we've done it too, and we can do it again in 2013 but only if we all pitch in -- together.
Grassroots campaigns begin with principles, the foundation. Many of you have heard me talk about our First Principles -- principles that our Founding Fathers recognized were a gift to us from God. Those principles have not gone out of style, and they don't need to be "revamped."
Preserving Life, Liberty and the opportunity for every Virginian to pursue happiness continue to be the purposes of government. These principles are timeless and universal. They apply as much today as they did on July 4th, 1776. They are alive and well in the 21st century, and it's incumbent upon all of us to communicate and connect America's first principles to real policies, policies that affect the lives of Virginians in areas such as taxation, transportation and economic development. These are the issues that will determine our ability to provide for future generations the opportunities that we have enjoyed.
Our opponents? They see Virginia as part of Washington, and would love nothing more than to bring Washington values and Washington policies to the state capital. That's their vision; that's their goal. And as The Washington Post itself has said, the Democrats are running a candidate who has parachuted into Virginia. The Post has also called him "a Washington insider, and a Virginia outsider."
Our vision is different from theirs of Virginia as a mini-Washington. And my vision is different from theirs too.
I am running for governor to continue strengthening our economy, preserve our liberty even if that means that I continue to end up fighting with Washington instead of becoming more like Washington, and also to promote the principles of smaller, more efficient state government.
Over the years, many people have told me that they may not agree with me on every issue, but they appreciate knowing where I stand. And they feel confident voting for me because they know exactly what they're getting: a no-nonsense, constitutional conservative who will watch out for every Virginian.
I've never wavered from defending First Principles. My record backs it up. Starting as a state senator, I fought for almost eight years to get private property rights protected in our state Constitution. I am proud to say that Amendment 1 passed with over 74% of the vote on November 6th, even while the Democrat Party of Virginia tried to stop it.
As Attorney General, I was the first to sue the federal government over the federal healthcare bill. I have been instrumental in changing the role of attorneys general across America to focus on being the last line of defense for our Constitution.
I have a clear and simple vision for my term as governor: Decrease the burdens of government, increase individual liberty, and focus on continuing the efforts of Governor McDonnell on economic development. Liberty in the economy is opportunity. We can't have economic opportunity without liberty.
But to make this happen, I need your help, the help of every single person here. Defenders of liberty, conservatives, Virginia Republicans ... we are an inclusive, yet diverse lot. But we can't get to where we want to go without each other.
I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to ask for the support of those Republicans who have been strong supporters of the Lt. Governor. I need your support, and I want to take this opportunity to ask each of you for your help and support in this race. Lt. Governor Bolling has performed over 20 years of public service, both to Hanover County and to Virginia as a whole. And he's not done. He's in a critical position as he presides over the State Senate.
I appreciated my time in the Senate with him, where I can hardly remember disagreeing with him on an issue, and where I can remember voting right along side him in some tense and difficult fights. I appreciate his service to Virginia, and I wish him and Jean Anne nothing but the best for the future.
My friends, we have our work cut out for us, but with our shared beliefs, our hard work, and lots of prayer, we can win again in Virginia, and we can do it in 2013. I look forward to working with each of you on the road ahead.