Herring made it clear that he would represent a break with the legacy of activism created by Cuccinelli, who gained national stature by filing legal challenges to President Obama’s health-care law and regulations imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Time and again he has bent and twisted the law, and misused and abused the power of the office in order to advance personal ambition and an extreme ideological agenda,” Herring said of Cuccinelli. “Senator Obenshain would be a continuation of what we’ve got. He himself has said he and Ken Cuccinelli are peas in a pod, philosophically.”
Herring also expressed his support for expanding Medicaid coverage in Virginia as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. And he suggested that as attorney general, he would not fight its implementation.
At a debate in Norfolk on Wednesday night, Republican lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson broke with Virginia’s socially conservative governor, Robert F. McDonnell (R), and argued that the commonwealth should not give equal treatment to the marriages of gay members of Virginia’s National Guard.
In August, the Pentagon issued a memorandum saying that it is now Defense Department policy “to treat all married military personnel equally.” A conservative state delegate subsequently called on McDonnell to withhold health and other benefits for the couples, but the governor said he would follow Pentagon policy.
Jackson pointed to Virginia’s passage, in 2006, of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
“The people of Virginia have spoken,” Jackson said, adding that their views should be respected. “We ought not to be called bigots and haters because we do.”
Sen. Ralph S. Northam (Norfolk), Jackson’s Democratic rival, said he supports the marriage benefits for gay guard members. “It goes back to being fair with those who have served our country,” he said. Citing his own military service as a doctor during the Persian Gulf War, Northam added: “You don’t ask people what their sexual orientation is when they need help.”
Northam also assailed Jackson for previously stating that gay people’s “minds are perverted.”
The candidates for lieutenant governor also sparred over state rules on vaccinating girls to prevent the spread of HPV, the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer. Starting in 2008, Virginia required girls to begin a three-dose course of the vaccine before starting sixth grade. The rules allow a parent to decline if they want.