Attorney general candidate Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II says Republican losses in recent Virginia elections were not solely because the state became more Democratic, but because the GOP failed to adhere to its core principles.
The Republican state senator from Northern Virginia told editors and reporters at The Washington Times this week that his candidacy is about applying basic conservative principles like lower taxes and less government to transportation issues, to health care issues and winning grassroots support by "selling it to one voter at a time."
"I do believe unless the Republican Party is out there protecting the Constitution, unless the Republican Party is protecting life and families and truly fighting for limited government, keeping taxes down, reducing regulations, those kinds of things, there is nobody left to do it. It is us or nobody."
Mr. Cuccinelli, the last Republican to hold one of Northern Virginia's 10 state Senate seats, described himself as perhaps the most conservative state senator from Northern Virginia in his lifetime.
He said a primary fight for the Republican nomination for attorney general left him at a fundraising disadvantage in the general election, but he attributed a roughly 10-point advantage he has in recent polls to statewide grass-roots support.
He said that as attorney general he would defend all the state's laws -- even if he does not agree with them.
"If I don't like a law, my opportunity is the same as anybody else in Virginia to go get a legislator to submit a bill to change a law. I take my obligations, as I have proven in this campaign, very seriously," he said.
On social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, Mr. Cuccinelli said he does not advocate either and will defend state law.
He said he is prepared to defend the state's partial-birth abortion ban before the U.S. Supreme Court, and he expects an upcoming legal fight over the state's constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.
He said no new laws were needed to regulate guns in the state.
Mr. Cuccinelli said he finds the death penalty a regrettable but necessary tool in society and that he supported expanding capital punishment in limited cases including for those who kill trial judges, trial witnesses and law enforcement officers.
"As a general matter, I believe the death penalty is clearly constitutional. It is an appropriate tool in the criminal justice system," he said. "It does need to be applied more carefully than other forms of punishment. You don't get it back if you get it wrong. And I have been exceptionally careful in my voting record in where I have been willing to support expansions of the death penalty."
Asked about illegal immigration, Mr. Cuccinelli described himself as a "rule-of-law supporter."
"I think that people that are here illegally ought to be deported. And state government isn't the primary level of government responsible for that, but it has tremendous impact on us on our budgets and our communities. And it is appropriate for us to deal with that."