RICHMOND — Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) will reveal his plans next week to run for governor in 2013, according to well-placed Republican sources.
Cuccinelli, a tea party hero who garnered national attention for suing the federal government over the health-care law, expects to make a formal announcement after the legislative session in the spring, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could speak freely about his plans.
For months, the former state senator from Fairfax County had said he was considering running for reelection or against Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) in 2014. But in recent weeks, speculation had turned to a run for governor, possibly setting up a primary race against Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R).
Bolling, a social and fiscal conservative who has campaigned on kitchen-table issues, has the endorsement of Virginia’s popular governor, Robert F. McDonnell (R). In Virginia, governors cannot seek consecutive terms.
In an interview Wednesday with The Washington Post, Cuccinelli declined to comment, saying he had not heard the speculation that he would announce his intentions next week. Calls to his political advisers were not returned.
Cuccinelli, easily elected as part of a GOP sweep in 2009, has taken on controversial issues, leading his opponents to accuse him of using his office to further his political agenda.
He advised public colleges that they could not adopt nondiscrimination policies protecting gay people. And he tangled with academics at the University of Virginia when he subpoenaed some
documents related to the work of a former climate scientist.
But Cuccinelli has garnered the most attention for suing the federal government over the constitutionality of the federal health-care overhaul. He won the first round of the suit but lost the second. He appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Political observers say that Cuccinelli would easily win a nomination contest but could have a more difficult time in a general election, where successful Republicans often play down their conservative credentials.
In a Post poll in May, 46 percent of respondents said they approved of how Cuccinelli was doing his job; 27 percent disapproved.
Bolling has been a key adviser for McDonnell, serving as the state’s chief jobs-creation officer and stressing the economy, transportation and higher education. A former state senator from Hanover County, he was expected to run for governor in 2009, but he instead ran for reelection as part of a team with McDonnell.
After this month’s elections, Bolling’s part-time job as lieutenant governor job gave his party the majority in the state Senate after the chamber became evenly split between Republican and Democratic legislators. Bolling is in Florida for the National Lieutenant Governors Association conference this week and could not be reached to comment.
Cuccinelli has not spoken to Bolling about his decision, but the attorney general has said for more than a year that he expected to run for reelection.
“A number of people have asked me about the governor’s race and at this point I’m just deferring that,’’ Cuccinelli said in December 2010. “But yes, I do expect to run for reelection, but I have not ruled that race out.’’
Bolling’s spokesman, Randy Marcus, said Wednesday that he does not know what Cuccinnelli’s intentions are but expected him to run for reelection.
“Lieutenant Governor Bolling has made clear that he intends to run for governor in 2013, and we hope that Ken will be a part of our ticket,’’ he said. “We think that would be best for the Republican Party.”
Several Democrats have expressed an interest in statewide office, but only former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe has told supporters he will run for governor.
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