The candidates’ joint appearance in Annandale came the day after Cuccinelli addressed a Richmond dinner at which Cruz (R-Tex.) was the keynote speaker. That event — a fundraiser for the Family Foundation, a social conservative group — drew extra attention because Cruz is seen as the face of the congressional GOP strategy to withhold funding for the government unless money is cut off for President Obama’s health-care law.
Cuccinelli’s campaign had spoken with Cruz’s representatives about the possibility of Cruz headlining a separate event for Cuccinelli, but that never came together. Instead, Cuccinelli has largely distanced himself from Cruz amid the intense focus on the government shutdown. Cuccinelli did not mention Cruz in his remarks in Richmond on Saturday night.
“Last night, Ken had an opportunity to stand up for Virginia jobs, to tell the Texas senator to stop hurting Virginia’s economy with his shutdown,” McAuliffe (D) said at Sunday’s event. “Instead, he didn’t stand up. He was silent. . . . Ken Cuccinelli was apparently more concerned with his reputation with the tea party than ending the government shutdown that is undermining Virginia’s economy.”
On Sunday, Cuccinelli did not mention the shutdown or Cruz on stage, but he addressed the topic with reporters afterward.
“It is a federal government shutdown. I’m running for governor,” Cuccinelli said when asked why he hadn’t discussed the subject.
As for Cruz, Cuccinelli said: “I talked to him when he was done taking his photos with all the folks there and told him how much that we were hoping this would be over soon and urged him in that direction.
“He shared with me how many bills have come over from the House that he hasn’t even been allowed to vote on by [Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.)]. . . . He can’t vote if it isn’t put on the floor.”
Democrats have scoffed at the notion that such a conversation with Cruz took place, with a state party spokesman suggesting Saturday — without evidence — that it was “fabricated.”
Cuccinelli also reiterated Sunday the Republican argument that it was McAuliffe who had threatened a shutdown on the state level because he has said several times that he would not sign a Virginia budget unless it includes funding for Medicaid expansion. McAuliffe has denied that he was threatening a shutdown.
The event at Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus was hosted by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce.
Shutdown talk aside, McAuliffe hewed closely to his stump speech. He emphasized the importance of funding for community colleges and highlighted his backing by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce and several Republicans and business leaders.
Cuccinelli, for his part, put a particular focus on boosting science and technology education in the commonwealth. He noted that he has received the backing of the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s TechPAC as well as the support of the National Federation of Independent Business.
But the government shutdown seemed to loom over all topics. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), whose district hosted the event, said Cuccinelli “can run but he can’t hide” from the shutdown.
“He can’t separate himself at this point,” Connolly said.
Cuccinelli acknowledged to reporters that the shutdown was affecting his race.
“I think when people vote for governor, they care more about state issues, but in Virginia, the spillover across the Potomac is pretty darn substantial,” Cuccinelli said. “That’s just a reality of life in Northern Virginia and southeastern Virginia.”