Cuccinelli Plans Run For Governor

Ken Cuccinelli

by Valerie Garner

“The Attorney General has said both publicly and privately, he’s going to seek re-election to the office of attorney general,” said Lt. Governor Bill Bolling. This was his response to media when asked if Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli would seek the governorship in 2013. “He’s a man of his word, and I take him at his word,” said Bolling in past months.

But a leak by a Republican official last week revealed that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was indeed planning to run for governor in 2013. With no denial possible, Cuccinelli issued a statement through his political director Noah Wall last Thursday.

In the statement Cuccinelli said: “At some point in 2012 I will more formally announce that I will seek to succeed Governor McDonnell in the 2013 election, and continue his positive record of pursuing opportunity for all Virginians.” He added that his focus until then would be to “continue to work toward less government, fostering an environment that increases jobs and improves our economic condition.”

Bolling responded by expressing his feelings in a statement saying, “I am very disappointed by Mr. Cuccinelli’s decision to run for governor in 2013. During the 2009 campaign, and since taking office in 2010, Mr. Cuccinelli had repeatedly stated that he intended to seek re-election as Attorney General in 2013 and that is what I and other Republican leaders had expected him to do. Unfortunately, he has now decided to put his own personal ambition ahead of the best interests of the Commonwealth and the Republican Party.”

In his statement he explained how he set aside his own ambitions to let then Attorney General Bob McDonnell run for governor in 2009. The Mc-Bolli-Nelli ticket hit the jackpot by presenting a united front. “Unlike Mr. Cuccinelli, I set aside my personal ambition and did what was right for the Commonwealth and our party,” he said. “I will also continue doing the work I have been doing to lay the foundation for my own gubernatorial campaign in 2013. If I do that work well, the political future will take care of itself.”

The understanding was that McDonnell would then support Bolling for governor in 2013. McDonnell has publicly stated his support for Bolling following Cuccinelli’s announcement.

This sets up a contest between Bolling and Cuccinelli for the Republican nomination. Cuccinelli’s hint and the Republican official’s leak begged for confirmation.

Speculation that Governor McDonnell might be tapped to be a vice-presidential running mate adds another head spinning twist. With this scenario, Bolling would step into the governorship finishing McDonnell’s term – leaving the attorney general’s office having to issue an opinion on Virginia law as it relates to tie-votes cast by the Lt. Governor.

The whole scenario is looking more and more like a wrestling match for the Republican party. Which candidates will Republicans endorse?

Salem Delegate Greg Habeeb was noncommittal for either Bolling or Cuccinelli but said, “I think we’re very lucky to have two great options.”

Odds are now that Cuccinelli just might pull it off but will there be a backlash from Republicans who may call “unnecessary roughness” and instead hang out on the sidelines like Habeeb?

Republican attorney general candidates have already begun declaring their candidacy, either knowing or speculating that an opening for attorney general was in the offing. Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle county announced that he will seek the nomination for attorney general. Bell first won his General Assembly seat in 2001. He has served five years as a state prosecutor in Orange County. He calls himself a conservative and a crime fighter. He has written laws against drunk driving and child pornography.

Another candidate is Harrisonburg Senator Mark Obenshain, a personal injury attorney who has served in the State Senate since 2003.  He refers to himself as a Reagan conservative.

Fairfax County Clerk of Court John Frey has also jumped in the race. Democrats say Frey has a conflict of interest and  that he should resign his Clerk of Court position. Dave Foster, a former School Board member, says he is considering jumping into the mix as well. Even John Brownlee’s name has been mentioned. Brownlee, formerly of Roanoke, challenged Cuccinelli in 2009.

Republicans say they are looking for someone to excite their base, while Bolling, to some, just doesn’t fill the bill. Others have commented that Cuccinelli should wait his “turn” and let Bolling be the nominee. That united ticket proved successful in 2009.

While the Republican base is pleased with the high profile Attorney General’s decision, it may help open the door for a Democratic ticket. Former Democratic primary candidate Terry McAuliffe has been the only gubernatorial candidate bandied about for 2013. Former House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong, before he lost to Delegate Charles Poindexter, had hinted at a statewide run. Even Roanoke’s Delegate Onzlee Ware, when questioned about his travels, told the press he was testing the waters.

DPVA chair Brian Moran on a party conference call last week said they are concentrating on the 2012 U.S. Senate elections.

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