In Virginia’s first gubernatorial debate, Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said Virginians, at a minimum, have a right to demand that candidates running for governor should have some record of commitment to the state before they decide to run.
As documented in the movie “Fast Terry,” which chronicles Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s dubious business record, including the breaking of a promise to Virginians to build a car manufacturing plant he later constructed in Mississippi, McAuliffe cannot make such claims.
As a result, McAuliffe has spent the better part of the campaign trying to stereotype and demonize Cuccinelli as a Republican caricature.
A look at Cuccinelli’s record and history in Virginia, though, will make it difficult for McAuliffe to make his assertions stick, for Cuccinelli has engaged in service to Virginians, much of the time without fanfare, since his college days at UVA, where he founded S.A.F.E (Sexual Assault: Facts and Education), a sexual assault awareness program that is still in operation today. He joined students who organized a 134-hour candlelight vigil that led the university to hire its first-ever, “full-time sexual assault coordinator.”
As Attorney General, Cuccinelli has fought for the wrongfully convicted, and he will have helped exonerate more wrongfully convicted individuals than any of his predecessors when he finishes his term. In 2009, he championed the cause of Thomas Haynesworth, a man who had spent 27 years in a Virginia prison for crimes he did not commit. Cuccinelli asked Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to support parole, and Cuccinelli argued on behalf of Haynesworth. After Haynesworth was freed, Cuccinelli offered him a job in the Attorney General’s office, where Haynesworth still works.
Prior to becoming Attorney General, Cuccinelli worked for five years on a program to prevent juvenile delinquency and worked for two years with a nonprofit group to help families in crisis in the Fairfax court system. For four years, he led and organized “Legal Food Frenzy,” a two-week annual food drive involving over 150 law firms and legal departments around Virginia.
During one winter semester at George Mason, where he went to law school, Cuccinelli worked overnight shifts helping the homeless and then attended class in the mornings. Immediately after completing law school he represented the mentally ill in their commitment hearings before moving on to helping veterans with their benefits appeals. He used some of that experience with veterans to mold his Plan for Virginia’s Veterans initiative, which he hopes will give them more educational opportunities and decrease homelessness.
While in the state Senate, he pushed through legislation that “ensured better treatment of the mentally ill.” He donated $100,000 from his Attorney General inaugural fund to the Daily Planet, “a Richmond-based mental health services organization.”
Cuccinelli has also fought against human trafficking and the Polaris Project, one of the most preeminent national group that combats human trafficking, named Virginia “one of the most improved states in the nation for combating human trafficking” under Cuccinelli’s leadership.
Cuccinelli campaigned for a state constitutional amendment to put limits on eminent domain, which Virginians overwhelmingly approved at the ballot box last November. And Cuccinelli, a well-known staple of Virginia politics, nationally put himself of the map when he became the first state attorney general to challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare.
In an interview with the Heritage Foundation, Cuccinelli, a George Mason University School of Law grad, said why he wanted to take a stand against the Affordable Care Act, and couched it in terms of defending the Constitution:
Certainly, we view our lawsuit as being not merely about health care. That’s actually secondary to the real important aspect of the case, and that is to protect the Constitution, as we essentially define the outer limits of federal power. If we lose, it’s very much the end of federalism as we’ve known it for over 220 years.
If Cuccinelli is successful in his bid to become governor of the Old Dominion he will be following in the footsteps of principled champions of liberty, such as Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, who both served in the early days of the republic. Virginians may just as well give Cuccinelli that chance because they see him as one of their own who has continually served Virginians and fought for voiceless Virginians when the cameras were nowhere to be found.