Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., is throwing his weight behind Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling over Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the 2013 Republican gubernatorial contest.
Bolling’s campaign announced the endorsement from the House majority leader Wednesday ahead of a key vote Friday by Republican Party insiders on whether to pick the gubernatorial nominee through a primary or convention.
“He is one of the most experienced candidates that has ever sought the position of governor in Virginia,” Cantor said of Bolling. “And, as governor, Bill Bolling will continue the successful policies of Gov. Bob McDonnell.”
Cantor and Bolling both hail from central Virginia and have known each other for two decades. In that regard, the endorsement isn’t surprising.
But Cantor’s pick could spurn Tea Party activist, who have backed Cantor in the past and overwhelmingly prefer Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli's conservative backers behind the effort to switch from the primary election now scheduled to a convention that would give the attorney general's backers an advantage over Bolling.
A primary benefits Bolling because it allows independents, moderates and even some Democrats to participate while a convention are typically dominated by ardent conservatives.
Cantor had endorsed former Gov. George Allen over a handful of Tea Party-backed conservatives in Tuesday's Republican Senate primary, which Allen won easily. Allen and Cantor appeared together at a Richmond victory party that night.
"Congressman Cantor has witnessed firsthand my dedication to conservative values,” Bolling said, “and he knows that I will remain committed to those values as governor of Virginia.”