Bill Bolling puts it to the people: Should he run for Virginia guv?

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Should Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling run as an independent for governor?

That's not rhetorical -- he's seriously asking for help in deciding.

Bolling posted a survey on his political website Thursday asking Virginians to weigh in on whether to get involved in the race. Respondents can answer yes or no, and the survey asks for their name, number and address, presumably to hit them up for donations if he runs.

Bolling dropped out of the race last year after it became clear he would likely lose the Republican nomination to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. But Bolling immediately began claiming he might run as an independent. His self-imposed deadline is March 14.

In explaining the survey, Bolling provided a big clue that he has thought a long time about how he would frame a potential third-party candidacy. In a letter to supporters, Bolling said, "I have to decide whether or not to seek the office of Governor as an Independent Republican."

Running with "independent" next to his name on the ballot could confuse voters of his political leanings, but putting "Republican" after is a clear signal that he's right of center.

It's a critical distinction because most of the state still doesn't know who Bolling is even after eight years as lieutenant governor, according to recent polls. If he enters the race, Bolling needs to steal support from Cuccinelli and left-leaning moderates inclined to vote for Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Bolling has used his office and position as president of the state Senate to weigh in on a number of issues during the General Assembly session, at times breaking with Gov. Bob McDonnell and fellow Republicans. Bolling called the experience "amazing" and said many groups have reached out encouraging him to get back in the race.

While money remains one of the final obstacles to Bolling jumping in the race, his public pondering over whether to run suggests Bolling is leaning toward entering the race.

"I think there is an opportunity to make history in Virginia this year," Bolling wrote. "We can send a message about the need to return more civility and a more mainstream approach to politics and governing. I know it won't be easy to win the governorship as an independent candidate, but with your help I believe it can be done."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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