By Mason Votes Staff Writer Ethan Vaughan
When Virginians go to the polls on Nov. 3, they will not be voting for their three statewide officials as one party ticket. This means that the next administration could be a mixture of political parties.
It has happened before. When Democrat Tim Kaine won a surprise victory over Republican opponent Jerry Kilgore in the 2005 gubernatorial election, it was Bill Bolling, a Republican, who snagged the lieutenant governor’s seat.
With the race for governor turning out to be unexpectedly tight (Democrats were elected in 2001 and 2005 by comfortable margins), the battle to win the state’s second-highest office has been pushed to the side. The lieutenant governor, however, is the state’s second-in-command, and can ascend to the governorship in the death, resignation or disqualification of the governor.
The Constitution of Virginia states that the lieutenant governor must be a United States citizen who “shall have attained the age of thirty years and have been a resident of the Commonwealth and a registered voter in the Commonwealth for five years next preceding his election.”
The greatest constitutional difference between the governor and lieutenant governor is that while the governor may serve only one consecutive term, the lieutenant governor can seek reelection as many times as he likes.
Once in office, the lieutenant governor’s primary responsibility is to preside over the Virginia Senate, casting a vote only if the chamber is evenly divided on a piece of legislation.
Practically speaking, the lieutenant governor makes appearances on behalf of the governor, and, when the two are of the same party, advocates on behalf of the governor’s agenda. In cases where the administration is politically split, however, the lieutenant governor is largely free to push an agenda independent of the governor’s office, an ability whose importance has increased in recent years; since 1980, three lieutenant governors have gone on to take the helm of the state, making the office a springboard to greater political power.
Bolling, who is running again for the position, has a moderate lead against his Republican opponent Jody Wagner; an Oct. 7 Washington Post poll had him leading Wagner 49 to 40 percent.
Political terrain is never steady, though, and both candidates are hitting the trail in the last stretch of the campaign.
“As the state Treasurer and Secretary of Finance, I helped Mark Warner and Tim Kaine balance the budget, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and make record investments in education and job training,” Wagner said in a statement to Mason Votes. “I’m proud that our efforts earned Virginia the designation as the country’s ‘Best Managed State,’ and that we were named the ‘Best State for Business’ eight times during the Kaine administration alone. I plan to invest in high-growth industries like renewable energy production and biotechnology, utilizing George Mason [University], and other schools as incubators of research and development.”
Wagner said that education, job creation, and transportation would be her biggest policy priority concerns, promising to allow “every student” in Virginia the opportunity to attend college and come up with a permanent solution to the transportation problems in the region, proposing such remedies as public/private partnerships and incentives to get cars off the roads.
The Bolling campaign was skeptical of Wagner’s promises.
In a statement released to Mason Votes, a Bolling spokesperson said that Wagner’s “policies of higher taxes, more regulations and more government spending will kill jobs and drive our economy deeper into recession.”
Bolling pledged to serve “as Virginia’s chief jobs creation officer and oversee Virginia’s economic development and job creation programs,” a goal his camp said he would accomplish through deregulation and lower taxes
“Lieutenant Governor Bolling is uniquely qualified to perform this function because of his background in private business, his experience in state and local government, and his reputation of being one of Virginia’s most pro-business leaders,” the campaign said. “In addition, his policies, of reducing taxes and regulations and investing in proven economic development and job creation programs will help get our economy moving again and create jobs.”