Ex-U.S. Prosecutor Enters Attorney General Race

John Brownlee kisses his wife, Lee Ann Necessary Brownlee, after she introduced the GOP candidate in Roanoke.
John Brownlee kisses his wife, Lee Ann Necessary Brownlee, after she introduced the GOP candidate in Roanoke. (By Sam Dean -- Roanoke Times Via Associated Press)
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

RICHMOND, May 20 -- John Brownlee, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, announced Tuesday that he will seek the Republican nomination for attorney general next year, vowing to fight abortion, illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

Brownlee, 43, stepped down Friday after seven years as the top federal prosecutor in western Virginia. Before President Bush appointed him in 2001, Brownlee had been an assistant U.S. attorney in the District.

Brownlee is the second Republican to announce plans to succeed Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R), who is expected to run for governor next year. Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax) launched a candidacy for attorney general in late March.

In a telephone interview after his announcement in Roanoke, Brownlee said he will campaign on a "justice for all" platform.

"I believe I can enhance safety and security for all Virginians," Brownlee said. "I believe every Virginian deserves to live in a community free of violent crime, free of drug dealing, free of criminal illegal immigration and free of child predators."

In Virginia, Brownlee is best known for his efforts to combat illegal drug use, including going after the makers of the painkiller OxyContin for deceptive marketing, a case that resulted in a $635 million settlement.

As attorney general, Brownlee said, he would support enforcement of the death penalty, protect the right to own a firearm and speak out against abortion.

"I want to advance a culture-of-life program to try to educate the next generation about the importance of protecting human life," Brownlee said.

At next year's state GOP convention, McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who is seeking reelection, are expected to run unopposed. The nominee for attorney general will complete the party's statewide ticket.

A key issue in the GOP race for attorney general will be which candidate has the greatest appeal in Northern Virginia, where Republicans have been struggling to win votes in recent elections.

McDonnell is from Virginia Beach, and Bolling, a native of southwestern Virginia, lives in Richmond.

Brownlee, an Army veteran, noted that he graduated from Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax County and lived in Arlington County before he moved to Roanoke.

Cuccinelli said in an interview that he is a proven conservative with a track record of winning elections in Northern Virginia.

"Whatever positions [Brownlee] chooses to take at this point, he is going to be dealing with issues I already have a track record of addressing" in the Senate, said Cuccinelli, who has been endorsed by more than a dozen members of the General Assembly.

David M. Foster, former chairman of the Arlington School Board, is also expected to enter the GOP race for attorney general.

Foster, who identifies himself as a conservative, said he is the most electable GOP candidate in Northern Virginia, noting that he received 63 percent of the vote in his 2003 race for the School Board.

"I think I could help the ticket here more than anyone else thus far," said Foster, adding that he fought to end racial preferences in admissions at Arlington schools and worked to limit the school system's debt.

Del. Stephen C. Shannon (Fairfax), who has raised more than $200,000, is the Democrat most often mentioned as a potential candidate for attorney general. Shannon said Sunday that he will decide in a few weeks whether to run.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company