- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 1, 2008

State Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, one of Virginia’s most conservative lawmakers, yesterday announced his plans to run for attorney general next year.

“This is a big day for us as we have decided to proceed with an exploratory effort in pursuit of the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2009,” the Fairfax Republican with his wife, Teiro, at his side told about 20 supporters at the Fairfax County government center.

Calling himself a “conservative at heart,” Mr. Cuccinelli said he would stick to his core principles of limited government, less taxation and family values.

The announcement comes a week after Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said he plans to seek re-election next year, rather than battle Attorney General Bob McDonnell for the Republican nomination for governor.

“With the establishment of Bob McDonnell as our presumptive nominee for governor and Bill Bolling’s announcement last week that he is going to seek re-election to lieutenant governor, I believe we have the opportunity to have the strongest ticket that Republicans have fielded in many years,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

Mr. Cuccinelli, a father of six and partner in the law firm of Cuccinelli & Day, is the first Republican to enter the race.

Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, Rappahannock Republican who was considering a bid, is now expected to endorse Mr. Cuccinelli.

Delegate Robert B. Bell, Albemarle Republican, and former Delegate Paul C. Harris, of Charlottesville, also have expressed interest in the job.

On the Democratic side, Delegate Stephen C. Shannon of Vienna said yesterday he is laying the groundwork for a possible candidacy.

“We are worlds apart on policy, but I like [Mr. Cuccinelli] personally,” he said. “I think he is a strong Republican candidate.”

Mr. Cuccinelli, who won re-election to his Senate seat by fewer than 100 votes last year, described himself as “unapologetically pro-life and anti-tax,” and “the biggest defender of the Second Amendment and property rights in the Virginia state Senate since my arrival.”

He also played a key role in the mental health reforms the General Assembly passed this year in response to the Virginia Tech shootings last April.

Craig Shirley, an Alexandria-based conservative strategist and author, said Mr. Cuccinelli has a Reagan-like ability “to turn aside an attack with self-deprecating humor,” and that he also understands “you can win Democratic votes by making conservative principled arguments.”

Mr. Cuccinelli, at times, has taken his conservative fight against the Republican Party.

He hammered President Bush last year for supporting an immigration plan that would have awarded amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, telling supporters he no longer considers Mr. Bush the leader of the party.

“We get the downdraft from Washington here in Northern Virginia more than anywhere else in the commonwealth,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “The poor performance both on spending and just keep their house in order by our national Republicans on Capitol Hill has hurt us. It hurt us very badly in the last couple years, and I think that is wearing out and wearing off, particularly since Democrats took slim majorities in the House and Senate on Capitol Hill.”

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