Gerald Baliles, the former governor of Virginia, died yesterday. Baliles was a fairly moderate Democrat, and certainly a moderate by today’s standards. He served as governor for four years in the late 1980s. Baliles was popular enough, I believe, to have been reelected, but was limited by law to just one term.
After his time as governor, Baliles joined the law firm I was with. This enabled me to observe, though not really get to know, the ex-governor.
What I saw was a gentleman and a conscientious, hard working, non prima donna member of the firm. In my experience, some male politicians turned Washington lawyer do not answer to the first description, and more do not answer to the second.
You can read about Baliles, including his accomplishments as governor, from his obituary in the New York Times. I want to focus on something you are unlikely to read in any obituary.
Baliles was a victim of Bill Clinton setting aside the Attorney General job for a woman. During the transition period (late 1992-early 1993), Baliles was one of several names on Clinton’s short list of candidates for this job.
Clinton’s first choice, Zoë Baird, didn’t make it because of a scandal relating to the immigration status of the nanny she hired. His second choice, Kimba Wood, also failed for nanny related reasons, although unlike Baird, her use of an illegal immigrant wasn’t illegal at the time it occurred (as I understand it) and she had timely paid social security taxes for the immigrant.
At this point, one might have thought that Clinton would nominate Baliles who, after all, was the last person standing from the short list (Charles Ruff had also been disqualified for not paying social security taxes for his housekeeper). But the list was a sham. Baliles was not a genuine candidate. He never had been.
This became clear when Clinton nominated Janet Reno, an obscure, marginally qualified candidate (at best) whose name had not been on the list of potential nominees.
Baliles had been used. You would never have known it from his comportment, though.
He was a gentleman. RIP.