Obama cabinet could mean musical chairs for Virginia
As President-elect Barack Obama begins to announce personnel decisions for his White House, the speculation runs wild that Virginia's turning blue for the first time since 1964 could mean that a few prominent Old Dominion Democrats would land new gigs in Washington. Those rumors are particularly loud for one of Obama's earliest supporters, Gov. Tim Kaine. Kaine still has one year left before he is term-limited out of the governor's mansion, and despite the fact that he's said he will serve out his term, many believe that just as Kaine was a finalist to be Obama's running mate, he's being eyed for a cabinet post. Should that come to pass, it would set into motion a chain of events unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth.
Since the General Assembly instituted the one-term limit in 1852, no governor has ever voluntarily left office before the end of his term. (The Union army forced William Smith, governor during the days of the Confederacy, out of office in 1865.) Should Kaine become, say, Attorney General as Politico posited Monday, that would make Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling the Commonwealth's new chief executive, thus handing over the office from a Democrat to a Republican. That means, for one year, Republicans would get to set the General Assembly's legislative agenda and make political appointments.
Such a development would also throw a monkey-wrench into Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell's plans to be the Republican nominee for governor in next year's election. He and Bolling have already reached an agreement that should Kaine vacate Richmond, McDonnell would step aside and let Bolling run to keep the state's top job. Bolling and McDonnell each tested the waters to decide who between the two of them would run for governor, and the state party eventually annointed McDonnell their de facto nominee over Bolling. Should Bolling run to keep the governorship, conventional wisdom has it that he would be a weaker candidate than McDonnell against either State Senators Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), Brian Moran (D-Fairfax), who have already announced their candidacies, or former Democratic National Committee chair and Clinton advisor Terry McAuliffe, who is reported to be contemplating a run.
But Kaine isn't the only Virginia Dem in the Obama cabinet mix. Sen. Jim Webb, having already served as Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, is widely considered to be a candidate for Secretary of Defense, as Politico also reported. Webb still has four more years to his Senate term, and it would fall to Gov. Kaine to appoint someone to fill out the term. But whom might Kaine appoint?
Well, the top ranking Dems in the state after Kaine, Webb, and Senator-elect Mark Warner, are the state's recently re-elected congressmen Bobby Scott (D-Newport News, who would be Virginia's first African American senator), Jim Moran (D-Alexandria, and brother of aforementioned Brian), and Rick Boucher (D-Abingdon). Then there are rising stars Glenn Nye (D-Norfolk), and Gerry Connolly (D-Fairfax) who just flipped two of Virginia's seats in the House of Representatives from red to blue, a category to which Tom Perriello (D-Ivy) might be added come December after the imminent recount of a tight vote he currently leads. Kaine might also try to alleviate some intraparty tension and choose either Deeds, Brian Moran, or McAuliffe in order to have one fewer Dem running for the gubernatorial nomination.
However, all of the above (save McAuliffe) would require additional appointments to fill these elected officials' positions. Kaine may just simplify things and choose someone who doesn't currently hold elective office such as former congressman L.F. Payne (D-Nelson), former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer (D-Falls Church), or former governor and director of UVA's Miller Center of Public Affairs Gerald Baliles (D-Charlottesville).
But this is inside-the-box thinking. We've got a few local Democratic supporters right here in our backyard who might fit the bill. What about best-selling author John Grisham (after all, he did serve in the Mississippi House of Representatives before writing novels), venture capitalist and Mark Warner's former business partner Jim Murray (he was largely responsible for the big Obama fundraiser at the Charlottesville Pavilion last October). Or, if you want to talk about real change, even Dave Matthews Band manager and Democratic donor Coran Capshaw (though we suspect a U.S. Senator's annual salary of $169,300 is slightly less than what Capshaw is currently pulling in per year).
But, of course, we're getting ahead of ourselves.