By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 29, 2009; B04
Stephen C. Shannon, the Democratic candidate for attorney general in Virginia, stepped up his effort to paint Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli II as an extremist Wednesday, accusing him of planning to discriminate against gay men and lesbians who work in the Office of the Attorney General.
A Cuccinelli spokesman called the accusation "ludicrous."
In a phone call with reporters, Shannon cited comments that Cuccinelli made to the editorial board of the Virginian-Pilot newspaper of Norfolk, which quoted the Republican as saying that "homosexual acts" are "intrinsically wrong" and violate "natural law" and that this view should be appropriately reflected in state policies.
The state senator made the remarks, according to the Virginian-Pilot, when asked for his views on the state's nondiscrimination policy toward gay men and lesbians.
"I happen to think that it represents . . . behavior that is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society," Cuccinelli was quoted as saying.
Shannon, a state delegate, called on Cuccinelli to apologize to "hardworking Virginians." He also asked for Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell to denounce Cuccinelli's statements.
McDonnell, a former attorney general, has said that as governor he will not renew the nondiscrimination policy, but he has also pledged to make hiring and firing decisions based only on merit and not on the basis of sexual orientation.
"Bob McDonnell's record and position is clear: He does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and he hires and promotes based solely on merit and ability," spokesman Tucker Martin said. "That was his policy as attorney general and would be his policy as governor."
"We should not be driving people out of state government who are committed to serving the public good based on sexual orientation," Shannon said. "That's not who we are as Virginians."
Cuccinelli was traveling and unavailable to comment. His campaign consultant, Chris LaCivita, said it was "ludicrous" for Shannon to suggest that Cuccinelli would discriminate against gays, just as it was "desperate" for Shannon last week to link Cuccinelli's support of the 10th Amendment -- protecting states' rights -- to past efforts to support slavery or oppose civil rights legislation.
"Steve Shannon is losing badly and desperate," LaCivita said. "Every one of his ads, and all of his statements that he has been making in the last two or three weeks, has been shrill, pathetic, without merit and grossly exaggerated. To make a statement like he is making only proves why voters in droves are picking Ken Cuccinelli to be their next attorney general and will on Election Day."
Every public poll published in recent weeks shows that Cuccinelli has a comfortable and growing lead against Shannon. Cuccinelli and Shannon live in Fairfax County, and their legislative districts overlap. But they occupy dramatically different spots on the ideological spectrum.
Cuccinelli -- an ardent foe of abortion and an advocate of gun rights, private property rights, and strict interpretation of the state and federal constitutions -- describes himself as one of the most conservative state senators representing one of the most liberal regions of the state. Shannon calls himself a moderate, business-friendly and pragmatic leader who would keep ideology out of the attorney general's office.
Cuccinelli's remarks also drew the attention of the Log Cabin Republican Club of Virginia, a group of gay activists that accused Cuccinelli of "incendiary" remarks.