- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2009

State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli of Fairfax is the right candidate for attorney general of Virginia. He doesn’t speak in poll-tested sound bites or generalities, he doesn’t float with the political wind, and he takes on substantive issues even if they promise him no personal, political benefit. More important still, the actual substance of his record and positions is excellent. We enthusiastically endorse his candidacy.

Mr. Cuccinelli’s opponent, Delegate Steve Shannon, also of Fairfax, campaigns as if the attorney general is merely a glorified criminal prosecutor. Never mind that the official Web site of the attorney general notes that of 14 defined roles of the office, only one involves “conduct[ing] or assist[ing] criminal investigations and prosecutions in certain limited cases.” Unlike Mr. Shannon, Mr. Cuccinelli understands that the attorney general is an administrator with a vast portfolio. The senator has the experience and knowledge that well prepares him for prosecutions and for those larger responsibilities.

The first of the AG’s jobs is to provide legal advice to the governor and executive agencies, and another major role is to make sure Virginia’s constitutional prerogatives are defended. Mr. Cuccinelli distinguished himself this summer when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in what is known as the Melendez-Diaz case threatened to gut the state’s ability to prosecute drug and alcohol cases and hobble state crime labs in general.

While Mr. Shannon wrongly labeled Mr. Cuccinelli’s immediate engagement with the issue a “political stunt,” the senator stuck to his guns and demanded that the governor call a special session to fix the problem. Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat like Mr. Shannon, was forced to agree with the Republican’s proposals. At the resulting session, the legislature adopted two of Mr. Cuccinelli’s three proposed solutions. (Now Mr. Shannon pretends he was in agreement all along. Mr. Shannon is not shooting straight on this one.)

Mr. Cuccinelli also merits praise for tackling the tough issue of cases involving mental health. He has been a leader on multiple fronts in proposing and passing laws both rational and compassionate, so that troubled people can get the help they need while protecting the citizenry from those so mentally ill as to pose criminal dangers. This legislative work doesn’t lend itself to easy politicking; it’s just the right thing to do.

The senator’s integrity has been evident even at his own political expense. Consider the case of Delegate Phil Hamilton of Newport News, who is caught in a scandal involving a job he procured at Old Dominion University. Mr. Shannon has been attacking Mr. Cuccinelli for refusing to demand Mr. Hamilton’s resignation. But it is Mr. Shannon who is out of line. The odds are high that the Hamilton case will be referred to the attorney general’s office. If the incoming AG has already prejudged the issue, as Mr. Shannon has, he will need to recuse himself from the case entirely.

As Mr. Cuccinelli told our editorial board yesterday, “If you’re gonna run for the office and then give up all the responsibility to other people, why bother? I think that’s irresponsible.” He is right. Mr. Shannon is wrong.

Mr. Cuccinelli better understands that AG decisions on regulations and in court cases can have a vast impact on the state’s economy, and his positions in favor of the right to work and against regulatory excess are far more conducive to a healthy economy than are Mr. Shannon’s. The senator also has a much stronger record on defending Second Amendment gun rights.

In all, Mr. Cuccinelli is a thoughtful and qualified candidate for attorney general.