Former Governor Terry McAuliffe has made his way into the news as he’s started staffing his political action committee. Common Good VA PAC hadn’t had any full time staff since it became clear T-Mac wouldn’t be running for president, but he’s now hired Chris Bolling, who had been serving as the Executive Director for the state Democratic Party.
If the goal is to have an impact on the Virginia electorate, this is a good hire since Bolling has a long history in Virginia politics. He’s been DPVA’s Executive Director since July of 2017 and served in other roles with the party before heading up the organization. He even had a previous stint on McAuliffe’s staff during his campaign for governor and worked on Tim Kaine and Mark Warner’s campaigns as well.
There’s been talk for awhile that McAuliffe might be interested in running for governor again in 2021. He created a lot of buzz when he campaigned all across the Commonwealth for Democrats running in state and local elections and raised a significant amount of money. And when Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring started facing some controversy, Terry’s name started being mentioned as a potential alternative.
Virginia’s constitution prevents governors from serving in consecutive terms, but there’s nothing that says he can’t run again after taking some time away from office. While it’s not something that happens often, it has been done as Mills Godwin served from 1966 to 1970 as a Democratic before switching parties and serving again from 1974 to 1978 as a Republican.
Since the current Lt. Governor has expressed interest in running for governor and he’s been trying to rehab his image in preparation for a potential campaign, it’s worth noting that McAuliffe was the first prominent Virginia Democrat to call upon Justin Fairfax to resign after allegations that he sexually assaulted two different women surfaced earlier this year. Considering all this, it shouldn’t be surprising that Fairfax has publicly said he wouldn’t support a McAuliffe candidacy.
Attorney General Mark Herring had announced last year that he would be running for governor and it was largely thought that he would face Fairfax in the primary. As Fairfax’s popularity has sharply declined as he’s dealing with the sexual assault allegations, Herring has largely been able to recover after he admitted to wearing black face decades ago after the controversy surrounding Ralph Northam’s yearbook surfaced. Ask just weeks after the admission if he was still planning on running, Herring said he had no intention of dropping out of the race.
Now that McAuliffe is likely going to be getting into the race, however, it will be interesting to see if that impacts Herring’s decision. His tenure as AG has been extremely well received, after all, and folks might be excited to see him seek another term in that position.
In addition to the sparks the staff hiring generated in the gubernatorial campaign, it also meant some moves had to be made at DPVA. The Party decided to replace Bolling with Andrew Whitley, who’s from Southwest Virginia and had previously been leading the Take the Majority coordinated campaign that helped Democrats gain control of both the House of Delegates and the state senate.
While many people have good things to say about Whitley, there was some controversy about the process. The staff change came before many people even knew Bolling was leaving and therefore wasn’t conducted in a very open manner. This has caused some concern with folks, especially as there are efforts to make sure the Party does a better job at increasing diversity and outreach to communities that are traditionally ignored in the political process.
“Jobs at [the Democratic Party of Virginia] are not political appointments and when positions become available there should be a search process,” well known Virginia political staffer Alexsis Rodgers tweeted. “Unfortunately, there was not an open search for the next ED or multiple recent job openings at DPVA.”
All in all, it appears as though we’re starting to get a clear picture of who’s going to be involved in the political discussion in Virginia over the course of the next few years. That being said, everyone should be focused in on lobbying the General Assembly to help ensure our values are truly represented by the folks who were just elected a couple weeks ago.