RICHMOND | State Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II won the Virginia Republican convention’s nomination for attorney general Saturday, electrifying delegates with a speech decrying the state of the Republican Party and proving that conservatives still have a voice in the party.
“We are in the minority in Washington and here in Virginia because Republicans abandoned their core principles,” he said in a speech that garnered the greatest sustained applause at the Richmond Coliseum.
While former Attorney General Bob McDonnell appealed to moderates and independent voters when accepting the uncontested nomination for governor, Mr. Cuccinelli proudly energized the conservative base attending the convention.
Hundreds of Cuccinelli supporters brandished yellow flags of Revolutionary War origin emblazoned with “Don’t Tread on Me” as he promised to be a conservative attorney general if elected, declaring himself pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-land ownership. “If you want an AG with a record of defending the Constitution as it was written, I’m your candidate,” he said.
Mr. Cuccinelli defeated former GOPAC-Virginia Chairman David M. Foster and former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee for the nomination.
Meanwhile, in his 30-minute acceptance speech, Mr. McDonnell focused on job creation, transportation and education.
“To every Virginian who needs a job, to every small-business owner trying to make payroll, to every retiree alarmed at losses in their retirement account, to every homeowner concerned about their home value, to every parent writing that next tuition check … this campaign is for you,” he said.
The Democrats are set to choose their candidate for governor in a primary June 9. In November, Mr. McDonnell will face state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry R. McAuliffe or former state Delegate Brian J. Moran.
Shortly after Mr. McDonnell made his speech, Mr. McAuliffe issued a statement attacking the Republican nominee.
“What they didn’t tell Virginians is that Bob McDonnell has a partisan, right-wing agenda,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “Whether it was his vote against Mark Warner’s budget reform, his efforts to stymie [Gov.] Tim Kaine’s transportation reform, or his opposition to accepting $125 million of Virginians’ federal tax dollars that would have helped thousands of Virginia families, Bob McDonnell has shown that he is more interested in playing partisan political games than getting things done for Virginia.”
Mr. Deeds also released a statement attacking Mr. McDonnells record on job creation, a theme the Democrats have hammered on in the last few weeks. “Middle-class families don’t stand a chance with Bob McDonnell in the governor’s mansion. Bob said no to helping laid-off Virginians get back on their feet. He said no to benefits for laid-off textile workers in Southside Virginia. And for the last eight years, Bob has said no to the progress we have made under Mark Warner and Tim Kaine,” Mr. Deeds said.
In statements designed to appeal across the state, Mr. McDonnell said he will ensure that Virginia awards 100,000 additional degrees in the next 15 years, noting that the state needs more scientists, engineers and nurses.
The crowd roared with approval when Mr. McDonnell promised to start drilling off the coast of Virginia, saying that the state can be the “energy capital of the East Coast.”
In the wide-ranging speech, Mr. McDonnell also spoke about the environment, and promised to conserve 400,000 additional acres of land.
Mr. McDonnell garnered the greatest applause when he spoke about his support of gun rights and human life.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who decided in March 2008 not to challenge Mr. McDonnell for the party nomination for governor, fended off a challenger, lawyer Patrick Muldoon of Giles County, for nomination for another term.
Acting party Chairman Pat Mullins of Louisa won the right to serve out the remaining three-year term of Jeffrey M. Frederick, who was ousted in April. Mr. Mullins defeated Bill Stanley of Moneta, the Franklin County Republican chairman.