In 2013, Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) ran for the Republican nomination for Attorney General in a statewide convention, losing a close-fought race to Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg). That race was notable for its civility and focus on the issues in large part because both of the candidates walked away from opportunities to go negative. In doing so, both men did a great service to their party.
Emerging defeated but unscathed from that race, Bell set his sights on 2017, and not too long thereafter resumed his relentless grassroots campaigning. For the past few years Bell has been ubiquitous at GOP meetings, rallies, and other events in all corners of the Commonwealth. No statewide candidate in recent memory has achieved anywhere near the presence Bell had achieved at the grassroots level, with appearances and meetings invariably followed by thoughtful handwritten notes and friendly phone calls. It is not for nothing that he’s been dubbed the Hardest Working Man in Virginia Politics.™
However, as any politico can tell you, the care and feeding of the grassroots comes at a cost; every moment spent on politics is a moment not spent on other things, including family. Rob Bell has decided that cost is too high for him and his special needs son, and the rest of his family. In short, he’s prioritized his role as a father above his role as a political leader.
That’s a fine choice indeed, from a fine man.
Bell’s statement on the matter is below:
Now that the 2016 election is over, it is time for the 2017 Virginia statewide campaigns to begin in earnest. After careful consideration, I have decided that I will not seek the position of Attorney General.
I have spent the last year traveling the state and laying the groundwork for a campaign. However, as you may know, I have two young children, one of whom has special needs. This school year has brought significant new challenges that require my personal and immediate attention. Despite my best efforts, it has become clear to me that I can’t possibly fulfill my responsibilities as a father while making a statewide run.
I am therefore ending my Attorney General campaign. I am profoundly grateful to everyone who has offered support, time, or encouragement. Unless told otherwise, I will be returning the donations I have received. Though I won’t be a statewide candidate I do look forward to strongly supporting the Republican ticket, especially against Mark Herring.
For several years, I have had the honor of serving in the General Assembly seat once held by Thomas Jefferson. I look forward to continuing my work in the House of Delegates and spending Thanksgiving with my family.
I want to be among the first to publicly thank Rob for the role he’s played in Virginia politics, particularly over the last 5 years. There will be a lot of folks who are disappointed that he’s not running to unseat the lawless Mark Herring. I hope at some point he’s able to bring his brand of relentlessly positive grassroots campaigning back to the statewide level.
In the meantime, we still have two great candidates running in the form of John Adams and Chuck Smith.
UPDATE: TBE’s own John Fredericks is reporting that Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) is now considering a run to fill the void left by Bell’s departure.
— John Fredericks (@jfradioshow) November 21, 2016
UPDATE 2: Attorney General candidate John Adams, via his campaign manager (and all around swell guy) Nick Collette, released a statement this afternoon about Bell’s exit from the race. The statement hits all the right notes, and denotes commendable grace on Adams’ part.
Rob Bell has fought tirelessly for conservative causes in the House of Delegates since he was elected in 2002. And over the past 10 months, I have been crisscrossing the Commonwealth, often right alongside Rob, as we campaign to defeat Mark Herring. I have gotten to know him well out on the trail, and my respect for him has only continued to grow. He is a superb public servant, and a fine man.
Rob has been committed to defeating Herring for a long time. As we move forward, I will draw on the example Rob has set as a tenacious and relentless fighter in the battle to win back the AG’s office. I look forward to seeking Rob’s advice and counsel as we continue to campaign to restore the Attorney General’s Office to its rightful place in our system of government.”