This is the third part of the blog series. The first two dealt with describing the Establishment and Outsiders. In this part, I give an example of the typical Establishment politician: Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling.
Note, I said Establishment, not moderate. The two need not be the same, and in the case of Bolling, they certainly aren’t. However, Bolling’s career shows a man very comfortable with the Establishment – and more important, badly out of place as an Outsider.
Bolling made his state-level debut in 1995, when he ran for State Senate against long-serving (and deeply despised by then) Democrat Elmo Cross. The GOP was so determined to defeat Cross that Bolling was, for a time, the most prolific fundraiser of all challengers (at one point, only House Speaker Tom Moss and Brandon Bell had raised more money – among all Virginia candidates that year). Bolling won, and quickly built his ties in the Virginia GOP. He even took a slice of Spotsylvania County during redistricting (the first and only GOP attempt to use the lines to defeat Edd Houck), not that it even came close to endangering him.
Bolling was clearly a party man, even when he disagreed with caucus leadership (such as during the tax increase debacle of 2004). He was a vote against the tax hikes, but not a voice (that is an observation, not a criticism). In his campaign for Lieutenant Governor in 2005, Bolling used his ties within the party to turn his primary opponent (Shaun Connaughton) into a moderate Outsider, turning the usually observed division on its head.
But it would be after he was elected LG in 2005 that Bolling’s Establishment nature became clear – and contrary to outward appearances, it was not his support for HB3202 that did it.
Rather, it was his one attempt to act against type – his aborted gubernatorial campaign.
The Establishment divided into two different reactions: some were neutral, others backed Bob McDonnell instead. As such, Bolling was forced to run an Outsider campaign, and he was clearly uncomfortable doing it. When he switched gears and ran for re-election, the relief of party leaders may have dominated the headlines, but Bolling’s own relief was also very clear.
Thus had Bolling built a career based on relationships, experience, and wise use of political capital.
Again, Bolling is no moderate; in fact his only real blemish on his conservative record is HB3202 (and I suspect in calling it a blemish I may hold the minority view among the contributors). He his, however, Establishment through and through.
Cross-posted to Bearing Drift