MECHANICSVILLE, Va. -- Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II endorsed GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz at an appearance outside Richmond on Friday.
Cuccinelli (R) has been a favorite of Virginia’s Republican grass roots activists for waging high-profile battles against abortion, a university climate scientist and “federal overreach” in various forms. He narrowly lost the race for Virginia governor to Democrat Terry McAuliffe in 2013 and has been considering another run for that office in 2017.
Cuccinelli praised Cruz as “someone who is committed to protecting life and family and their privacy in our society, who knows the judiciary. Senator Cruz clerked for Chief Justice Rehnquist, not Justice Kennedy, not Justice Ginsburg.”
Cuccinelli told the crowd of about 1,000 that he had, for the first time in his life, made the maximum donation to a presidential candidate.
“And many of you know how cheap I am,” Cuccinelli said. “That hurts. I want you to give until it hurts.”
Cuccinelli’s nod came as the Texas senator appeared at a Friday afternoon rally at Life Church, a non-denominational congregation outside of Richmond Friday. The event had been scheduled for late morning but was pushed off for hours so that Cruz could be in Washington for a vote against a spending and tax deal.
Before addressing a crowd, Cruz met privately with reporters and blasted the deal, which cleared Congress with bipartisan support.
“I think this … was a betrayal of the men and women who elected us,” Cruz said. “All across this country, people are frustrated out of their minds. They’re frustrated because we keep winning elections as conservatives and then Republican leaders keep advancing Barack Obama’s agenda.
“This is stunning. This is a trillion-dollar deal, thousands of pages, cut in the dark of night. It funds all of Obamacare, funds all the executive actions. It funds all of Planned Parenthood. It does nothing to stop this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal. It does nothing to stop President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s indefensible plan to bring tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to America even though the head of the FBI says they cannot vet those refugees to determine if they’re ISIS terrorists.”
Despite the fiery rhetoric, he started his news conference off on a playful note. Sporting a plaid shirt, jeans and cowboy boots, Cruz strode into the room with a man dressed as Santa Claus.
“We want to see which reporters have been naughty and which reporters have been nice,” he said.
Once inside the cavernous church hall, Cruz repeatedly brought the crowd to its feet by criticizing the Washington establishment. They waved little American flags and at one point interrupted him with chants of, “USA! USA!”
“We will repeal every word of Obamacare,” Cruz said. He also called for abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and, in a tongue-in-cheek answer to rival Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall, said he would post the thousands of displaced IRS workers on the border to frighten away any would-be illegal immigrants.
“I traveled an hour and a half to get here and it was definitely worth the drive,” said William Roberts, 25, a sheriff’s deputy who lives inn Colonial Beach.
Also in the crowd was Ed Olive, 55, who works for Richmond’s housing authority.
“I like his grassroots attitude ... and I like the fact that he’s gone up against the big guns in D.C, and fight for what the American people believe in,” he said.
Cuccinelli’s endorsement came as a pleasant surprise to Olive, who would like to see the former attorney general run for governor again.
Cuccinelli said he will not make a decision about running until after the 2016 presidential race. So far, two Republicans have formally announced they are running to succeed term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2017: political strategist Ed Gillespie and Rep. Rob Wittman.
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), who became a hero to conservative Republicans by unseating then-majority leader Eric Cantor in a GOP primary in 2014, also attended but has not yet made any endorsements in the presidential race. But in a brief interview, Brat called Cruz “phenomenal.”