Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ROANOKE (AP) — The former top federal prosecutor in western Virginia, John Brownlee, announced his candidacy yesterday for the Republican nomination for attorney general.

Mr. Brownlee, 43, stressed his conservative credentials, saying he would speak out against abortion and fight illegal immigration, gang violence, drug abuse and health care fraud. He also said he wanted children to be safe in school and safe from Internet predators.

“I am committed to making Virginia a better and safer place to live,” said Mr. Brownlee, who stepped down Friday as U.S. attorney, a job he held for seven years.

The current attorney general, Robert F. McDonnell, is seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

State Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Fairfax County Republican and a lawyer, has already announced his candidacy to succeed Mr. McDonnell. Other Republicans also could emerge as candidates for attorney general.

Mr. Cuccinelli said Mr. Brownlee “certainly has a legitimate resume,” but he doesn’t think the prosecutorial experience is a big advantage.

“Five percent of the staff at the attorney general’s office does prosecution,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “In terms of manpower and decision-making, there’s an awful lot important that goes on. The office has a wide range of responsibility.”

Mr. Brownlee declined to discuss Mr. Cuccinelli’s job qualifications. However, he said his own qualifications — having led an office with criminal, civil and appellate divisions — make him “uniquely qualified” to be Virginia’s top law enforcement official.

Mr. Brownlee’s cases have included the successful prosecution of the maker of the painkiller OxyContin on charges of misleading the public about its risk of addiction, and of ITT for illegally sending overseas classified night-vision technology used by the U.S. military.

He is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and the College of William & Mary’s law school. Mr. Brownlee previously was an assistant U.S. attorney in the District.

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