Even after renouncing the government shutdown last week, Virginia attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R) remains plagued by the issue.
At a campaign event on Sunday, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe called Cuccinelli out for not taking the “opportunity to stand up for Virginia jobs, to tell the Texas senator [Ted Cruz] to stop hurting Virginia’s economy” during a Richmond fundraising dinner the night before. Cuccinelli was joined at the event by Cruz, who led the charge to the shutdown, and served as the keynote speaker.
When speaking at the fundraiser, Cuccinelli — who is a well-known Tea Party ally and won the Republican nomination with the backing of Tea Party activists — did not address the current government shutdown. He also declined to mention Cruz in his remarks.
After Sunday’s campaign event, however, Cuccinelli explained he did not address the subject the day before because “it is a federal government shutdown,” and “I’m running for governor.” Still, the conservative attorney general could not dodge questions concerning Cruz, with whom he did not take photos during the fundraiser.
“I talked to him when he was done taking his photos with all the folks there and told him how much that we were hoping this would be over soon and urged him in that direction,” Cuccinelli said of Cruz.
Trying to emphasize that he does not see eye to eye with Cruz, Cuccinelli also said that he would “probably not” “handle the federal budget situation the same way,” although he is a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act.
Then he proceeded to claim that it is actually McAuliffe who has threatened a state-level shutdown, because the Democrat has often said that he would not sign a Virginia budget that did not include funding for Medicaid expansion – an argument that McAuliffe denies is true.
No matter how hard Cuccinelli tries to distance himself from Ted Cruz and the Tea Party, the bottom line is that he will have to remain on the defensive on the shutdown issue, especially due to the over 65,000 federal workers who live in Northern Virginia.
Cuccinelli acknowledged the problem he’s now facing, saying: “I think when people vote for governor, they care more about state issues, but in Virginia, the spillover across the Potomac is pretty darn substantial.”
Representative Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), whose district hosted Sunday’s campaign event, said Cuccinelli “can’t separate himself at this point.”
He added that Cuccinelli “can run but he can’t hide” from the shutdown.
Although the attorney general is not at risk of losing conservative votes, his Tea Party ties may turn away potential independent votes — something that Cuccinelli cannot afford this late in a race in which polls show that he is trailing.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr