Cuccinelli 2.0: The GOP Candidate Who Might Win Virginia’s Atty General Seat


Democrats are saying that the Republican candidate seeking to fill the shoes of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), who is abandoning the seat for a shot at the governor’s mansion, is just as bad for women as his predecessor.

As the Virginia governor’s race increasingly looks to be a lock for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, Republicans and Democrats alike are pivoting to the Virginia attorney general race in which state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R) is in a tight battle against state Sen. Mark Herring (D).

Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and other Virginia Democrats are stumping for Herring on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Republican State Leadership Committee recently announced it was going to pour $1.35 million into Obenshain’s campaign, according to National Journal.

Polling has remained tight in the race but, noticeably, Obenshain won the endorsement of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which refused to endorse Cuccinelli (or McAuliffe or libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis for that matter). The endorsement praised the Republican state senator for running one of the more “more positive statewide campaigns in recent memory” — a clear shot at McAuliffe and Cuccinelli who have runs highly negative campaign, even by national standards.

Substantively, attacks in the race have ranged from energy policy to the government shutdown to issues like women’s health and abortion. Obenshain has said the focus of his campaign is on fighting human trafficking, regulatory reform, and fighting government excess. One important difference between the Cuccinelli campaign and Obenshain’s campaign as of late is that Obenshain seems to have fielded and kept his own ground on attacks over social issues and women’s rights.

Like Cuccinelli, Democrats used social issues to target Obenshain. In May, just after he clinched the Republican nomination for attorney general, opponents highlighted a 2009 bill he sponsored that required women to report a miscarriage to police within 24 hours. Obenshain’s campaign said the bill was changed through the legislative process and that he “is strongly against imposing any added burden for women who suffer a miscarriage, and that was never the intent of the legislation.”

“Ultimately, however, he was not satisfied that any amendment could sufficiently narrow the scope of the bill to eliminate these unintended consequences, so he had the bill stricken at his own request,” Obenshain deputy campaign manager for policy Jared Walczak said in a statement at the time.

Earlier this month, Obenshain released an ad pushing back on attacks against him, saying that Herring has neglected to pass new sex trafficking legislation despite sex traffickers “targeting women and children” in his home district.

“But Herring introduces no legislation to combat them and votes against tougher sentences for sex offenders,” the voiceover in the ad says.

More recently, Herring countered with an ad attacking Obenshain for cosponsoring a bill with Cuccinelli to ban “birth control bills and outlaw abortion even for rape and incest, making the office a platform for ideological crusades.” Attacks like these haven’t had quite the same damaging effect as they have in the Virginia governor’s race, but Democrats still seem to think it could be a winning strategy.

With only a few weeks before the November 5 election, both sides are jockeying to emerge victorious in the competitive race. On Tuesday at a Virginia campaign event, Wasserman Schultz sought to link Cuccinelli and Obenshain together over health and women’s rights issues.

“Ken Cuccinelli is not the only Republican on the ballot attacking the rights of women in Virginia to make their own health care decisions,” Wasserman Schultz said Tuesday. “The GOP nominee for Attorney General, Mark Obenshain, is Ken Cuccinelli 2.0.”