Big win over EPA boosts Cuccinelli campaign

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli hasn’t hit full-speed-ahead mode yet in his campaign drive to governor; he’s awaiting completion of the General Assembly session that just convened Wednesday. But when he does, he expects his recent win against the Environmental Protection Agency to provide a boost.

“Any time that you do your job well, it helps. That’s a kind of basic thing to say, but part of the judgment of this election will be whether I did a good job or not,” Mr. Cuccinelli said in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Washington Times.

A federal judge ruled Jan. 4 that the EPA overreached its authority by trying to regulate stormwater runoff as a pollutant. Mr. Cuccinelli said he received nonpartisan support for his case and praised the Democratic-led Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for withstanding pressure from environmentalists in an important property-rights case.

“Speaking to them, they were willing to make the right decision even when they faced a lot of purely partisan pressures not to do this,” said Mr. Cuccinelli, who  won several close elections in Fairfax County before he became attorney general. “And what message that sends is that I can work with Democrats when we can come to agreement on issues.”

Another plus on that EPA win: Much of his support came from Northern Virginia, “where some of the value of our federalism efforts have not been appreciated so much.”

Mr. Cuccinelli’s tenure as attorney general hasn’t always been so positive.

Virginia’s leading role in challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare’s health care mandate ended last June with a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the White House. Last March, Virginia’s highest court abruptly ended Mr. Cuccinelli’s quest for records related to climate-change research and communications at the University of Virginia.

Political opponents portrayed those cases as high-profile upsets, but they were not total losses, Mr. Cuccinelli said. The Obamacare ruling brought “restraints on federal spending,” as well as limits on the Constitution’s “necessary and proper” clause, that haven’t been set since the New Deal, he said.

“No Congress will ever be able to play the ‘it’s not a tax’ game again,” Mr. Cuccinelli said, referring to the shifting views of the White House on whether to classify the Obamacare mandate as a fee or a tax. “The chief justice did say that anything coming in with money attached to it will be considered a tax.”

The U.Va. case, meanwhile, dealt more with government transparency than with politics, Mr. Cuccinelli said.

“Sometimes you get the door slammed in your face. But we respect the courts and we’ll go forward with that. The side that won in that was the one in favor of closing down transparency,” he said. “I don’t know if that hurts me [politically]. I have a strong track record of advancing that cause when I was in the Senate” from 2002 to 2010.

Current polls put Mr. Cuccinelli in a neck-and-neck race with likely Democratic rival Terry McAuliffe.

A Jan. 10 Quinnipiac University survey of 1,134 registered voters showed Mr. McAuliffe at 40 percent and Mr. Cuccinelli at 39 percent of the vote, with a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points. Nearly one in five respondents were undecided. The Bolling factor — Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has not decided whether to run for governor as an independent — is still unknown, with political guesses as to the impact of his candidacy ranging from zero to the double digits.

Cheryl K. Chumley is a digital editor for Times247.

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