Just in case the real candidates for Virginia governor haven’t caused enough controversy on their own, now a fake one has jumped into the fray.
A man hired by a liberal super PAC to impersonate Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II caused a stir at a Virginia Beach aquarium last weekend, prompting a call to police and an indignant response from the Republican’s campaign.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, which first reported the incident, local police questioned the impersonator and his associates Saturday and eventually released them without pressing any charges.
The man was hired by NextGen Climate Action Committee, a super PAC funded by environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer. The group this week put $500,000 into a new ad questioning Cuccinelli’s ethics, on top of a previous $400,000 in-kind donation to Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s campaign to keep on the air a McAuliffe ad hitting Cuccinelli for his legal efforts against former University of Virginia climate researcher Michael E. Mann.
Mike Casey, a spokesman for NextGen, said the group hired the impersonator because Cuccinelli is “ducking and spinning” rather than answering questions, particularly about a complex gas royalties case that has prompted an investigation of the attorney general’s office by the state inspector general.
“We think he deserves an impersonator, because if the real Ken Cuccinelli won’t answer questions, we will supply a fake Ken Cuccinelli,” Casey said.
Casey added that it was “unfortunate” if the aquarium’s employees were bothered by the stunt, but he said it was clear the incident was meant as a parody, as the impersonator was “standing in front of a sign mocking Ken Cuccinelli, he was handing out $100,000 ‘Ken bucks’ and handing out hundred-grand candy bars,” a reference to campaign contributions Cuccinelli received from an energy company involved in the royalties case.
The group also plans to fly anti-Cuccinelli airplane banners around the state this weekend, including over the NASCAR race in Richmond and the Virginia Tech football game in Blacksburg.
Cuccinelli’s campaign issued a statement Friday saying “the McAuliffe campaign has given a wink and a nod to campaign tactics that are beneath the dignity of the office he seeks. There’s no question that campaigns should be hard fought affairs focused on the issues that matter most to Virginians. But what’s equally certain is that there are some lines you just don’t cross.”
The statement came as Cuccinelli’s campaign was drawing scrutiny for an ad it is airing criticizing McAuliffe for his stock profits from Global Crossing, the fiber optics firm that filed for bankruptcy in 2002. Two former Global Crossing employees who appeared in the spot said they were not told their interviews would appear in a campaign ad.
“This seems like a bad joke, and it’s not something we think is funny,” McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said of the impersonator. “What has really upset Virginians is the fact that Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign tricked and deceived workers into a misleading attack ad that they didn’t know about. He should remove the ad from the air and apologize to those people his campaign took advantage of.”