Cuccinelli was joined by nationally syndicated talk show host Mark Levin at a Constitution Day rally in Sterling and spoke of his efforts to restrain government, including legal challenges to President Obama’s health-care overhaul and to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Get government out of the way, and you will watch the American economy explode,” Cuccinelli said, invoking the names of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and other Virginia-born patriots. “Those principles that they built this nation on are eternal and universal. They apply everywhere and all the time. They apply as much in 2013 as they did in 1776.”
Cuccinelli painted his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, as a creature of inside-the-Beltway politics who would exacerbate partisan tensions in Virginia. The loudest applause came when he spoke of his support of school choice.
“A child in Virginia — a child in Petersburg — trapped in the boundaries of a failing school, can’t pursue happiness if they can’t get a decent education. And right now, their own government blocks them from alternatives that would allow them to pursue happiness,” Cuccinelli said. “We don’t promise outcomes; we promise opportunity. And this is a classic example where we can expand and make real the promise of opportunity of government policy.”
People brought yellow lawn chairs with the motto “Don’t tread on me,” and at least one tricorner hat was visible in the crowd. John Whitbeck, 10th Congressional District Republican Committee chairman, raised eyebrows when he kicked off the festivities by telling a joke in which the head of the Jewish religion presented the pope with a long, elaborate document that the Jewish leader said was a bill for the last supper.
The crowd laughed uproariously. But American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal political action committee, tweeted about Whitbeck’s “anti-Semitic” opener and the state Democratic Party later circulated a video of the joke.
Cuccinelli was not yet on stage at the time the joke was told, and his campaign later distanced him from the remarks.
“I don’t even know who the guy is,” Cuccinelli campaign strategist Chris La Civita said, referring to Whitbeck. “It’s wholly inappropriate and not connected to the campaign. And it’s not reflective of Ken Cuccinelli.”
While Cuccinelli was working his base, McAuliffe was in Virginia Beach collecting an endorsement from the city’s mayor, Will Sessoms, who is a Republican. McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said the two events offered a snapshot of the contrasts between the candidates, and he accused Cuccinelli of fully embracing the tea party movement and only pretending to focus on mainstream Virginians.