McAuliffe, Bolling buddy up at VA Free luncheon

The Terry McAuliffe – Bill Bolling love fest continued at the Virginia Free luncheon in Tysons Corner on Monday.

 Both McAuliffe and Bolling were on hand to make a pitch to Virginia business leaders to support the establishment of a Virginia Public Safety Memorial. But that doesn’t mean a little politics didn’t get served up with the sea bass at the Ritz Carlton.

 McAuliffe said he wanted to “personally thank the lieutenant governor for the hospitalities he’s shown to me,” and introduced Bolling as his “friend” and “one of the greatest lieutenant governors in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

 Bolling, taking stock of his place on the stage with McAuliffe told the crowd that he always knew he would appear with the Democrat at the Virginia Free lunch.

 But “my vision was that I would be the Republican nominee for governor,” he said.

 “Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the tea leaves for that to happen,” Bolling added to some laughs and applause, referring to the Tea Party wing of the GOP that enabled Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to ascend to the party nomination and compelled Bolling to withdraw  from the running late last year.

  “I do appreciate the fact that you reached out to me,” Bolling said of McAuliffe, adding that McAuliffe discussed the transportation bill with he and Gov. Bob McDonnell and offered his assistance help and economic development with him

 “That’s the kind of bipartisan approach that we need,” he said

 Cuccinelli was noticeably absent from the luncheon, which attracts business leaders and elected officials from Northern Virginia and other parts of the state. The attorney general’s campaign has been stung recently by several endorsements of McAuliffe by  Republican business, and one GOP elected official said that he could not remember the last time a Republican gubernatorial candidate skipped the annual Virginia Free luncheon

 Instead, the attorney general was in Richmond hosting what aides described as a business round table with a dozen women business and community leaders from the Richmond area.

 “One Of my primary goals during this campaign is to spend the bulk of my time listening to Virginians from across the Commonwealth,” Cuccinelli said in a statement. “Voters will have plenty of time to hear from Terry McAuliffe and me, but I think it it’s critically important that the policies we put forward are informed by the real concerns and priorities of leaders, job creators and families.”

 That left McAuliffe and Bolling all alone together. While Bolling did not make an endorsement at the luncheon – except to urge support for the public safety memorial – McAuliffe reiterated his interest in working with Bolling if he is elected.

 “I’ve consistently said if I’m elected one of the first calls I’d make would be to the lieutenant governor. … Bill Bolling would a great asset to help me do what we need to do,” McAuliffe said after the luncheon.

 “I’m not into any specifics I don’t know what he wants to do, but I’d love to have him involved in some capacity.”

 Virginia Free officials also expressed support for five incumbent Republicans who face primary challenges because they cast votes supporting the tax-heavy, bipartisan transportation plan.