VIRGINIA BEACH — Talking to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters here Thursday, both Democrats running to succeed Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) described him as an extreme conservative and said he has abused his office for partisan gain.
Justin Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, and state Sen. Mark R. Herring (Loudoun) cited the lawsuit that Cuccinelli filed in an attempt to stop implementation of President Obama’s health-care law and the attorney general’s support for tighter restrictions on abortion as evidence that he has overstepped his bounds.
They spoke during a 90-minute forum that was the final showcase before Tuesday’s primary for them and two Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor, Aneesh Chopra, who served in a newly created position as Obama’s chief technology officer from 2009-2012, and state Sen. Ralph S. Northam (Norfolk), a pediatric neurologist who has served in the Senate since 2008.
All four candidates presented a largely united front behind Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe, who will not be on the June 11 primary ballot because he is unopposed. McAuliffe faces Cuccinelli, the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee, in November’s intensely watched matchup.
Fairfax, who resigned his prosecutor’s post to run for attorney general, told the audience not to let his age or political inexperience prevent them from supporting him.
“I know the elephant in the room is you all think I’m too old to run for attorney general,” said Fairfax, who is 34, reminding the audience that President Bill Clinton was 30 when he was elected attorney general of Arkansas.
Herring, by contrast, cited his seven years experience in the state Senate and drew sharp contrasts between his record and those of Cuccinelli and Senate colleague Mark D. Obenshain (Harrisonburg), the GOP nominee for attorney general.
Herring told the crowd that the stakes could not be higher in this year’s election. “We cannot afford another attorney general like [Cuccinelli],” he said. “We’ve got to put someone out there who’s got a good track record, who knows what it’s like to be in a tough race and win.”
Democrats are seeking to win the attorney general’s office for the first time in 24 years. Fairfax and Herring said they would work to pass gun-reform legislation, protect the environment and fight elder and child abuse. They also said they would oppose attempts to expand restrictions on abortion and fight for equality for minorities and gays.
In the lieutenant governor’s race, Northam noted that a Democratic victory would put the party back in control of the state Senate, which is currently split 20-20, with the lieutenant governor voting to break the tie, and put Democrats in charge of influential legislative committees.
“We need our majority back to move forward our principles and values,” he said.
Chopra said he would not “wait for a permission slip” to advance initiatives to improve the state’s economy. He pledged to be “a firewall” against the “further erosion” of women’s and voting rights in the Senate.
The winner of the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor faces Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson in November.