Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli dropped a political bombshell last week when he said he planned to run for governor in 2013, challenging fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling for the nomination.
The news caused a definite chill between the elected leaders. Cuccinelli hasn’t spoken to Bolling since news of his plans leaked. At that point, he decided it was too late to “put the genie back in the bottle” and deny the rumors.
“I think competition is a very good thing,” Cuccinelli told News4. “It will force us to bring the best to the top.”
Cuccinelli gained national attention and a national following by legally challenging President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan. Bolling has had a lower profile as Gov. Bob McDonnell’s “jobs czar.”
Bolling said last week that the attorney general was putting his personal ambition ahead of the best interests of the Commonwealth and the Republican Party.
“If we’re going to be the party of free markets and free competition that we advertise ourselves as, then we need to practice what we preach,” Cuccinelli said. “I think voters are pretty well fed up being told who their candidate is going to be. They can pick Bill Bolling if they want to and God bless them. That would be fine with me, and I think if Bill Bolling gets through a process with me he’ll be a better general election candidate.”
Cuccinelli is no stranger to primary challenges. He beat two other Republicans to win the GOP nomination for attorney general in 2009.
The attorney general didn’t plan to announce his future political plans so soon, but when the Washington Post broke the story, he was faced with a dilemma.
“The decision I was put to was, Do we just try to put the genie back in the bottle or do we run with it? We just ran with it with as much momentum as it unleashed,” Cuccinelli said. “We had so many grassroots folks calling us and emailing us and rather than tamp all that down and restart it later, we went with it.”
The Post report also prevented Cuccinelli from first talking to Bolling about his plans before confirming them in a statement to his staff. After the Post report, Bolling didn’t return Cuccinelli’s calls Friday.
“I spoke to the governor but couldn’t reach the lieutenant governor and he wouldn’t return my calls,” Cuccinelli said. “Eventually his chief of staff called mine and said we don’t have anything to talk about, and that’s unfortunate.”
Bolling didn’t take Cuccinelli’s call because he was busy at the National Lieutenant Governors Association meeting in Miami, a spokesman said.
Cuccinelli said he wouldn't run if he didn't think he was a better candidate.
With his political plans out of the bag, Cuccinelli said he wants to refocus his energy on 2012 and the presidential election. Saturday night he served as a panelist on a Fox News debate, grilling presidential hopefuls.