| by Paul Goldman
Few people in Virginia have ever heard, much less read, Virginia Code Section 24.2-509, as modified by Virginia Code Section 24.2-516, and 528. Thus the Virginia State Police should not be surprised if Pat Mullins, the able Chairman of the VA GOP, is caught on the radar gun going 95 MPH on the two land road leading to the Powhatan farm of Pat McSweeney, the leading Republican election lawyer. Moreover, it will not be reckless driving, quite the opposite. Why? There is a loophole in the VA statutory scheme capable of saving Cuccinelli and the VA GOP from being blown-up by LG Bill Bolling, playing the part of Dennis Hooper in the movie "Speed."
Virginia law gives the GOP until sometime in the last week of February to call Mr. Bolling's bluff.
FACT: The "What Me, Worry?" attitude of the Cuccinelli campaign as regards a potential Bolling three way race is either proof that both sides of the Republican Party are delusional, or the key advisors to both candidates despise each other more than they admire their clients. In my experience, I have never seen two sides go out of their way to destroy not only one another, but themselves in a year when they were trying to run for higher office. NEVER.
At this rate, Cuccinelli will go down in history as the most stubbornly ideological candidate to ever run for Governor in the modern era: while Bolling will join him in the footnote as the most transparent opportunist to ever run as an independent candidate.
What they see in the mirror as virtue is really vanity. They are politicians before anything else. All Cuccinelli and Bolling have are political issues: moreover, neither is capable of judging the character of the other in terms of fitness to serve as Governor. This is not to denigrate them in any regard. But facts are facts: They are men, not the idols of virtue they see in the mirror. They have principles. But they are politicians first.
Get over it guys: Nothing wrong with being human, it is our condition. The fight between Cuccinelli and Bolling is a feud fueled by figments of their imagination, stoked by their advisors for their own agenda.
The only person running for Governor right now with his head on straight is Terry MAC. He knows who he is, he isn't trying to pretend, he is running for Governor as guy who has some ideas for moving the state forward. You can like the ideas, you can dislike the ideas, you can like T-Man, you can dislike T-Man, that's your individual right.
But at least he is comfortable in his own skin: he isn't trying to reinvent himself like Bolling or claiming some mantle of higher principled morality like Ken.
He is running for Governor to win and serve to the best of his ability: nothing more, nothing less. Like I say, Terry has his head screwed on straight. That's the most important quality of any chief executive. Yes, he is pragmatic. Like that's bad?
ALL OF WHICH BRINGS ME TO THE OBSCURE VIRGINIA LAWS DISCUSSED AT THE BEGINNING.
Right now, the Cuccinelli camp has to assume Bolling is going to run as an independent candidate. So does the GOP high command.
If they think this makes it more likely that Cuccinelli wins in the fall, then I would suggest they don't pay the extra health care premium to cover a lobotomy or other brain surgery to improve cognitive function. Why? There isn't any brain matter left to cognitize.
If Bolling runs three way, Cuccinelli loses unless something unpredictable, indeed unprecedented happens. Game theory has a clear answer for this situation: The GOP reverses its call for a Convention and instead goes for a gubernatorial primary. True this is a double AC/DC move having switched one already. So what?
Which brings me to VAC 24.2-509, 516, 528 and Pat McSweeney. Under VA law, the GOP has to inform the State Board of Elections whether they will call a primary during a very specific statutory window. The law says this window is "not more than 125 days and not less than 105 days before the date set for the primaries."
Given that the primary date is June 11, a quick calculation puts the parameters between say February 3 and February 25 give or take a few days.
THE POINT BEING: There is still time for Pat Mullins to convince the conservative, anti-Bolling majority in control of the GOP's controlling body to call for a primary and so notify the Board.
To be sure, this would put huge pressure on both Cuccinelli and Bolling to get all the required signatures by the March 28 deadline. On the other hand, state law basically gives Mullins unfettered authority to decide whether either candidate failed to submit the required signatures.
The point being: Mullins can guarantee that both men make the ballot assuming they can't get the 10,000 valid signatures, which will not be the case. But if they spend $50K on petitioners, I can guarantee that each man makes the ballot, indeed for probably a lot less.
THIS IS WHY MULLINS WILL BE RACING TO SEE MCSWEENEY.
As I read the law, the party only tells the State Board whether it has adopted a primary: if not, then the party can legally choose its nominee as it pleases.
As I read VAC 24.2-528, a party could enter the statutory window having formally declared for a Convention even so notified the State Board of Elections: but legally change to a Primary before the window closed.
Bottom line: Do the Cuccinelli conservatives have the "stones" to call Bolling's bluff? Bolling has said he would run in a GOP primary. He could change his mind but it would ruin his credibility and make it clear he is nothing but a spoiler. If he can't win a primary of his own party, how is he going to win a general election?
Cuccinelli takes a similar ballot risk: if he loses to Bolling, he can't run for governor and will have given up the AG's job. Yet if Cuccinelli can't beat Bolling among GOP diehards, then how does he win the General Election?
True, Democrats and independents can vote in a GOP primary. But the Dems will be having a primary on the same day. Under Virginia law, you can only vote in one primary. So the chances of any mischief are slim and none.
Mr. Mullins will thus ask Mr. McSweeney a simple question: "Goldman is a Democrat but is he right on the law, as unlikely as that might be for a Democrat?" If McSweeney says yes, then the die is cast: Do GOP "movement" conservatives have the guts to reverse themselves, effectively give Bolling what he wants, and force a primary, knowing their guy Cuccinelli can lose?
What is the bottom line advantage for Cuccinelli?Under Virginia law, if you run and lose in a primary, you can't run as an independent in the general election. So if Cuccinelli is going to have to face Bolling eventually, the smart play is to roll the dice in a primary.