RICHMOND — Former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II said on Saturday that he has begun thinking about making another run for Virginia governor — if only just barely.
“Teiro and I have not ruled out running for Governor in 2017, but we have barely begun to think about it,” Cuccinelli, referring to his wife, said in an email to The Washington Post.
“Right now I’m focused in Virginia on helping conservatives win their state senate races next month and Virginia will be ground zero for the presidential race. Of course, as President of the Senate Conservatives Fund, my priority is advancing conservative candidates who are willing to fight to change how Washington does business.”
Cuccinelli’s email followed an appearance on CNN Friday, during which he left open the possibility that he would run for governor in 2017. The Republican narrowly lost the 2013 governor’s race to Terry McAuliffe (D).
Cuccinelli’s entry into the 2017 contest would pit the GOP’s establishment wing, which is already lining up behind former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, against its more conservative grassroots, who regard Cuccinelli as a hero for the brash battles he waged as attorney general against abortion, “Obamacare” and other forms of what he called “federal overreach.”
Gillespie, a political strategist and former White House counselor, who nearly unseated U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) last year in his first bid for elective office, confirmed on Friday that he intends to run for governor. He is a favorite of party moderates.
Given that Cuccinelli and Gillespie both lost in squeakers to vastly better-funded Democrats, both wings of the party could make a credible argument for giving the nomination to — take your pick — the firebrand who inspires the party’s base or the more moderate figure with greater appeal to swing voters.
The Republican Party of Virginia currently plans to make its choice for governor at a convention instead of a primary. That is a forum that favors more conservative candidates because conventions are day-long events that tend to draw only the most stalwart party activists.
Among Democrats, so far only Lt. Gov. Ralph S. .Northam has said he intends to run to succeed term-limited McAuliffe.