Virginia Republicans will put up an unquestionably conservative ticket in the fall elections, a prospect delighting the party's base and presenting a crystal-clear contrast with Democrats in what is likely to be the marquee election of 2013.
Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, E.W. Jackson of Chesapeake and state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain will carry the mantle for the party for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively.
Mr. Cuccinelli previewed what could become part of a stump speech during his acceptance speech at the party's nominating convention in Richmond over the weekend. He pre-empted Democratic charges that his views on issues such as abortion and gay rights are too extreme for a statewide candidate in Virginia, which has proved to be a purple state in recent years, closely divided between Democratic and Republican candidates.
He emphasized that jobs and the economy — not social pursuits — are going to be the issues that drive his campaign.
"My opponent and his liberal cronies are going to call us lots of names," Mr. Cuccinelli said, referring to presumptive Democratic nominee and former national party chairman Terry McAuliffe. "They are going to try and scare folks and scream at the top of their lungs that we're extremists and radicals."
But, he asked, when did it become extreme to protect children from predators and human traffickers, guard the Constitution from government overreach, secure the freedom of the wrongly convicted, or ask the government to spend less so the economy can grow?
"My friends, it is not extreme to fight for the people of Virginia and that is exactly what I'm going to do as your next governor," he said.
Mr. Obenshain, whose father, Richard, secured the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 1978 before dying in a plane crash later that year, has pledged to be an attorney general for "all Virginians," but also to pick up the mantle of Mr. Cuccinelli, who launched high-profile challenges against President Obama's health care overhaul and the Environmental Protection Agency almost immediately upon taking office in 2010.
"Are you ready to fight to stop 'Obamacare' in its tracks?" Mr. Obenshain of Harrisonburg asked a cheering crowd Saturday when he took the stage after his win over fellow law-and-order legislator Delegate Robert B. Bell of Albemarle.
But the biggest surprise is the presence on the ticket of the bombastic Mr. Jackson, a Harvard Law School graduate and the first black that Virginia Republicans have selected to run as a statewide candidate since 1988.
Helped in part by the most rousing speech of the convention in which he bellowed the eminently repeatable line, "I am not an African-American! — I am an American!" Mr. Jackson, who finished last in the 2012 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, outlasted seven other candidates and survived four rounds of balloting to secure his spot on the ticket.
Virginia and New Jersey are the only states that will vote for governor this year, which will once again place the Old Dominion in the national spotlight after being heavily courted by both parties in the past two presidential elections. Mr. Obama last year became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state twice in a row since Franklin D. Roosevelt, but the state has elected a governor belonging to the opposing political party of the sitting president in every election since 1977.
"This is the game," said Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University. "Everybody's attention is here; the vast majority of the money is going to be here."
Democrats, as Mr. Cuccinelli had alluded to, immediately blasted the GOP ticket as out of touch with average Virginia families.
"This year's election will present Virginians with a clear choice between a Democratic vision for more jobs, good schools and the transportation system our economy needs and the Cuccinell-Jackson-Obenshain agenda to roll back the clock on women's health and turn our government into a hotbed for tea party extremism," said Delegate Charniele L. Herring, Alexandria Democrat and chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.
The GOP trio planned to make campaign stops in 10 cities around Virginia in a tour that kicked off Sunday and continues Monday and Tuesday.
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