McDonnell said Tuesday that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, E.W. Jackson and state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain will each have to run their own races.
“I think if we’re going to continue the progress we’ve made ... we’re going to have to have a Republican ticket,” McDonnell told listeners. “I think there’s plenty of room for divergence in the party. We allow for differences. When I ran, people said I was too conservative. But I focused on jobs and economic development.”
In the days following their nomination, Democrats condemned the ticket as “extreme,” and in particular, have singled out Jackson — the party’s first black statewide candidate since 1988 — who has accused African American voters of having a “slavish devotion” to the Democratic Party, and on the topic of abortion, has said Planned Parenthood has been more dangerous to black people than the Ku Klux Klan.
“Being passionate about the right to life is something that I share,” McDonnell said. “I think that was the essence of his comments.”
Jackson has said he has nothing to apologize for regarding his previous statements, and has called himself a uniter, and not a divider. Cuccinelli and Obenshain have been mum on Jackson’s comments, mostly letting him speak for himself on the campaign trail.
McDonnell said Jackson and his running mates should focus on a unifying message focused on kitchen-table issues that matter to voters.
“I think you need to express these things with civility,” McDonnell said. “You need to try to bring people together.”
The outgoing governor and former chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association was largely absent from this year’s state party convention, delivering remarks on the first night of the event before leaving town ahead of the voting.
The three statewide candidates campaigned together for three days around the state immediately after the convention in a symbolic demonstration of party unity. McDonnell said Tuesday that the candidates run as a ticket but are elected individually.
“I learned a long time ago in politics, I’m responsible for my own statements, not what other people may say,” McDonnell said. “Everybody’s responsible for their own campaign ... and how they’re going to govern.”
Cuccinelli faces Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the marquee political matchup of the year. Jackson and Obenshain will find out who their opponents are after Democrats select their nominees in a June 11 primary.