Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli speaking at the 2012 Liberty Political Action Conference in Chantilly, Virginia.
Ken Cuccinelli’s plan for winning the Virginia gubernatorial race is straightforward. Avoid outspoken statements on social issues—the same ones that alienate most Virginians but excite his rightwing base—and focus the campaign on jobs and growth.
So far, he’s done exactly that. Of his three television advertisements, for example none mention abortion or same-sex marriage. Instead, the first—narrated by his wife—presents Cuccinelli as a defender of the vulnerable, highlighting his time working in homeless shelters and prosecuting human traffickers. The second is a straightforward ad on the economy—where he touts his Ryan-esque tax plan of cuts—and the third is meant to humanize Cuccinelli, and features the widow of a slain Fairfax County police officer, who endorses the attorney general.
E.W. Jackson, the newly-minted GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, throws a huge wrench in this strategy.
Jackson is known for his outspoken social conservatism. He routinely denounces LGBT equality—calling gay Americans “sick people psychologically, mentally, and emotionally”—and has compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan, accusing them of engineering the mass slaughter of black children through their support for abortion rights. Indeed, this rhetoric is the whole reason for his popularity among Virginia conservatives and the reason he was able to win the nomination.
Which means he’s unlikely to abandon it on the campaign trail. Cuccinelli is a deft politician, but not so deft that he’s able to distance himself from someone who—ostensibly—is his running mate. And so, at a campaign stop in Abdingdon—in the southwest corner of the state—Cuccinelli told supporters that he’s “glad” Jackson is on the ticket. Why? Because the lieutenant governor cast the tie-breaking vote in the Virginia Senate, and at the moment, the senate has an even split between Democrats and Republicans. Here’s more from the Virginian Pilot:
“I don’t need to know what the subject matter that’s going to tie up 20–20 that the LG can vote on will be. I’m confident that we’re going to get the right vote every single time out of E.W. Jackson,” Cuccinelli said of the Chesapeake-based minister. “So I’m glad he’s on this ticket, too.”
Expect this quote to be circulated around the state by Virginia Democrats. And for good reason. Given their demographic challenges, Democrats—and Terry McAuliffe in particular—have to convince Virginians that the GOP is too extreme to trust. With Cuccinelli now tied to someone further to the right than he is, that task has become much, much easier.