As if hosting one of the nation’s tightest Senate races and holding swing-state status in the presidential race wasn’t enough, Virginia politics got another jolt Wednesday when “a senior GOP official,” as the Associated Press put it, said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli would run for governor in 2013.
Cuccinelli gained a national profile soon after taking office in 2010 because of his leading role in challenging President Obama’s healthcare law. But he had been expected to forgo a gubernatorial run, instead seeking a second term as AG before possibly running for Senate in 2014. Instead, he will take on Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the GOP heir apparent who has incumbent Bob McDonnell’s blessing, in what promises to be a hard-fought primary.
The Washington Post calls Bolling “a social and fiscal conservative who has campaigned on kitchen-table issues,” but Cuccinelli is likely to outflank him on the right. Phil Tran of Common Sense says Cuccinelli “has the early advantage,” but Bolling would be a better bet in the fall election. (Larry Sabato tweets that if McDonnell gets tapped for the number two slot on a victorious national GOP ticket, Bolling could end up governor well before the next election.)
* State Sen. Mark Obenshain, a likely candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor, was in South Hampton Roads Wednesday, “rolling out legislation to limit government’s ability to take private property,” the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports. Obenshain is a vocal foe of what he considers to be eminent domain abuse.
* The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Gov. Bob McDonnell was officially elected chairman of the Republican Governors Association Wednesday in Orlando. He has already held the job since August, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry stepped down to run for president.
* The Richmond Times-Dispatch says some Tea Party activists are angry that George Allen is claiming to have their support. Alexandria Tea Party leader Kerry Scott said she found her name on an Allen campaign release titled “Virginia Tea Party Patriots Endorse George Allen for U.S. Senate” -- even though she had not endorsed Allen. At least three others on the list had also not endorsed Allen.
But many Tea Party activists are lining up behind Allen, Eric Odom of Bearing Drift writes, as movement favorite Jamie Radtke faces poor fundraising and other difficulties. The Mason Conservative blog says many true believers “have endorsed Allen because of Radtke and what a disaster she would be as a candidate against Tim Kaine.” Sabato’s Crystal Ball says this morning that Allen “is the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination.”
* Karen Kwiatkowski, a libertarian activist who is challenging Virginia Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte in next June’s GOP primary, wants Goodlatte to debate. The Augusta Free Press says Kwiatkowski, frustrated with Goodlatte’s refusal to even acknowledge her debate challenge, “has gone public with her request.” In a letter to Goodlatte that she made public, Kwiatkowski wrote, “Now that George Allen has finally agreed to debate his Republican primary challengers, I believe that it is time for you (or your office) to answer the mail.”
* Over in Maryland, the Washington Post reports President Obama has offered an early endorsement of Sen. Ben Cardin, a heavy favorite to win re-election. The Post says Cardin faces a potential primary challenge from state Sen. Anthony Muse, “an African American minister who has said he is ‘very serious’ about the campaign.” Muse has “spoken of the importance of electing an African American to the Senate, so the backing of the first black president could help Cardin among the same Democratic voters Muse is hoping to reach.”
* The Hagerstown Herald-Mail says speculation is growing that Maryland Sixth District Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican who is 85, may retire at the end of his 10th term. His chief of staff Bud Otis is taking early steps to run if Bartlett retires, and Roll Call reports state Sen. David Brinkley plans to seek the GOP nomination whether Bartlett runs or not. But prospective candidate Otis told Roll Call, “The congressman, to my knowledge, is running.”
* The Baltimore Sun says Anne Arundel County “could play a pivotal role in the newly aligned 4th Congressional District race, even though no candidate from there has officially entered the race.” In the heavily Democratic district, Rep. Donna Edwards already faces a primary challenge from former Prince George’s County prosecutor Glenn Ivey, and Anne Arundel County Councilman G. James Benoit could get into the race. Benoit says he plans to decide within a week.