Ken Cuccinelli II’s announcement that he will run for Virginia governor in 2013 presages some interesting days ahead.
The controversial, hard-right attorney general has been a highly polarizing figure in state politics. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, he stubbornly insists that humans have little to do with climate change and has indulged in a months-long witchhunt against a former University of Virginia scientist who, like most of his colleagues in the civilized world, does see a link. Cuccinelli has trampled on gay rights by pushing to end legal protections against discrimination against gays in public universities. He has fought headlong against President Obama’s health-care reform, spending plenty of taxpayer money in the process.
Meanwhile, Cuccinelli hasn’t come up with much in the way of positive proposals or platforms. Perhaps that’s not his job as attorney general, but right now voters don’t have a clear idea what he’s for, only what he’s against. Given Cuccinelli’s obvious and robust reactionary ideas, it will be hard for him to remake himself into a moderate the way Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, once a hard-line social conservative, seems to have done.
The state GOP establishment has been pushing Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling as McDonnell’s successor, notably by calling him the “go to” guy on jobs. The fact is that Bolling is pleasant — and utterly forgettable.
Who else could run among the Republicans? One possibility is Sean Connaughton, McDonnell’s secretary of transportation and former chairman of the Prince William County board of supervisors. Connaughton is a technocratic professional who once headed the National Maritime Administration and has been both a Coast Guard and a Navy officer. He’s been on a tear recently. He ousted just about the entire board of the Virginia Ports Authority for failing to keep up with Baltimore and Savannah and has been the brains behind a big bond push to build new roads. Although his methods may sometimes be heavy-handed, at least Connaughton is a doer, not a reactionary. Should he run, Connaughton might be a more reasonable choice for the GOP.
Either way, the state’s Democrats badly need to get their act together. And fast. They are going to have to come up with a better candidate than Creigh Deeds, who was easily beaten by McDonnell last time.