On Monday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) was touting a victory against the Environmental Protection Agency that he fought on behalf of Fairfax County over storm-water regulation of a local creek.
In deciding to remain attorney general while running for governor, Cuccinelli broke with a tradition started in 1957 and ended a streak dating to 1985. Since then, six straight Virginia attorneys general have resigned to run for the state’s top job.
Cuccinelli’s contrast with previous attorneys general and attention to pulling double duty underscores not only his thinking but also foreshadows an intense governor’s race ramping up eight months before the election.
His balancing act already has drawn fire from Democrats, who say Cuccinelli is a part-time attorney general using state time and resources to subsidize his book tour.
“Virginia taxpayers pay Ken Cuccinelli to be a full-time Attorney General,” Democratic Party of Virginia spokesman Brian Coy said in a statement. “If Ken Cuccinelli is going to insist on being a part-time Attorney General while he chases the national Tea Party limelight, he should give Virginians a full accounting of how he reimburses them for the salary and other expenses that he racks up while he is jetting around promoting his own extreme book.”
Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix dismissed claims that he is neglecting the duties of his office.
“Cuccinelli pledged to serve his full term as attorney general and he is fulfilling that promise by continuing to win battles against the EPA, stopping out-of-state companies from preying on vulnerable Virginians, and keeping our children safe from sexual predators,” Nix said in a statement.
When he announced his bid in December 2011 to seek the Republican nomination for governor, Cuccinelli vowed that he would not resign as attorney general, saying in a staff e-mail: “Just as I had intended not to resign as attorney general to run for a second term, I will not resign as attorney general to run for governor. The people of Virginia trusted me to be their attorney general, and I intend to give them their full four years.”
Cuccinelli remains the lone GOP candidate in the race and will likely be the party’s nominee for governor. He is expected to face Democrat Terry McAuliffe, also his party’s only candidate, in November.
Much of Cuccinelli’s rise as a high-profile Republican is due to his work as attorney general: challenging climate change, suing the federal government over its new health-care law and pushing for stricter rules on abortion clinics. His conservative credentials earned him an invitation as the opening speaker at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference next week.