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Cuccinelli Sticks With Conservative Message in Va. Attorney General's Race

Virginia attorney general candidate Ken Cuccinelli II acknowledges that many voters in his district disagree with his conservative views.
Virginia attorney general candidate Ken Cuccinelli II acknowledges that many voters in his district disagree with his conservative views. (By Steve Helber -- Associated Press)
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Cuccinelli, who is a devout Catholic and home-schools four of his seven children, has said he supports abolishing the U.S. Department of Education. A video clip making the rounds on GOP and Democratic blogs shows Cuccinelli at a spring campaign event saying that he might not obtain a Social Security number for his seventh child out of fear that it "is being used to track you."

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In an interview, Cuccinelli said he supports the concept of public education but also believes in small government. He did end up obtaining a Social Security number for 2-month-old Max, he said, and explained that his comments were part of a larger discussion about privacy and the over-reliance on Social Security numbers for identification purposes.

He has made a name for himself in less-divisive ways. He was a leader two years ago in rewriting some of the laws governing the state mental health system after a mentally disturbed Virginia Tech student killed 32 people and himself in a mass shooting on campus. Although he supports the death penalty, he has opposed efforts to expand it. He has also pushed legislation to limit the government's use of eminent domain to take private property.

He is unapologetic about his views that are less popular close to home. There's the "finger-in-the-wind style of leadership," he said, "and then there is what I think the founders had more in mind, which is a bolder form of leadership in which you do what you think is right and you are then obligated to turn to your constituency and say, 'This is why I did what I did.' And you stand for it at the ballot box."

Many of Cuccinelli's critics say his attempt to win statewide office is an acknowledgment that he would not survive another election cycle in Northern Virginia. He narrowly beat his last Democratic opponent, and his Senate district went more than 55 percent for Barack Obama last fall. Moreover, he could lose some of his base when district boundaries are redrawn in 2011.

Now that he has a broader pool of voters to choose from, Democrats are not taking the challenge lightly.

"I think it's easy to underestimate Ken. He has not survived this long on poor political skills," said Scott Surovell, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.

He said he expects Cuccinelli's open embrace of divisive views to lead to his political demise. "The one thing I've learned about Ken Cuccinelli is that Ken rarely hides who he is. He's only going to accept so much rebranding."


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