Once again, 1-term Governorship shakes up VA politics

So Mark Herring will not run for Governor in 2017; he's going to try to hang on to the AG office instead.

Norm Leahy and Paul Goldman had their usually solid analysis of some of the issues at play in the WaPo this past weekend, suggesting that Herring just may not have been up for a difficult run for the Governor's office. But they note there could be larger forces at play:

Herring surely expects former secretary of state Hillary Clinton to be the next president. McAuliffe, one of her closest friends, would be in line for a major Cabinet post. If he resigns in early 2017, Northam becomes the incumbent governor. If Herring were running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he would be in what the British call a “sticky wicket.”

Other Democrats would be running for attorney general, leaving Herring unable to seek reelection, stuck running against an incumbent Democratic governor. McAuliffe says he intends to serve out his term. But if a president and close friend says she needs him, would McAuliffe refuse?

Here's where Virginia's unique political system comes into play. It's the only state where governors are limited to one term in office (although they can run again after sitting out a term). Often, this just means that there are a legion of former Governors hanging around the state, running for office; it's no surprise that both U.S. Senators from VA are former Governors.

But it also means that the sitting Governor has very little time in office before having to think about what the next step on the political ladder should be. For McAuliffe, a Democrat, there's no path to national office since both Senator seats are blocked by fellow Dems. His best bet at keeping an important political post is to join his pal's Presidential Administration in some role or another.

And so McAuliffe might be eyeing an early exit in 2017. Lt. Gov Northram eyes taking over the Governor's office a year early. And Herring has to stay where he is and wait his turn. Only Mark Herring knows for sure what drove his decision, but this sure makes for a plausible story, and VA's particular election rules make that story happen.