More than 400 Republicans gathered for a fundraising luncheon at the Richmond Marriott today to hear Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pledge support for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s bid for governor.

With 50 days until Election Day, Cuccinelli trails Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the polls and in fundraising, and bringing Rubio to town was designed to generate excitement and cash for the Republican cause.

Rubio, a rising GOP star mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2016, said the country has reached a “moment of extraordinary importance,” and suggested no less than the “American Dream” is at stake.

Rubio said the November election is not just about electing a Republican over a Democrat, but ensuring that the commonwealth is run by a candidate like Cuccinelli who supports free enterprise and limited government.

Cuccinelli’s election, said Rubio, would begin this “new renaissance of reaching the American Dream.”

Kay Coles James, a Cabinet official under Gov. George Allen and personnel director for President George W. Bush, opened the luncheon, saying Virginians and America face “a time when freedom and liberty are under attack.”

“A time like this requires Ken Cuccinelli,” she said.

Outside, more than two dozen Democrats and Planned Parenthood supporters were dressed in pink T-shirts and held signs saying, “Keep Ken Out” — a reference to the attorney general’s positions on women’s rights issues such as birth control and abortion.

Cuccinelli spoke for fewer than 10 minutes before introducing Rubio, saying the eyes of the nation are fixed on the race to see how Republicans respond after being defeating by President Barack Obama in 2012.

Cuccinelli said the party can send a message that a conservative candidate can win a purple state like Virginia and said the country’s “first principles” are at stake in the race.

He zeroed in on the president’s health care law due to take effect in several weeks, and drew a contrast with Democratic rival McAuliffe, who has supported the health plan and a proposal to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands more Virginians.

He vowed to stop as much of the implementation of the health law as “I possibly can” if elected. He also made a pitch for his education plan, saying it promotes “parental control and choice.”

Cuccinelli closed his remarks by calling for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington.

New campaign fundraising figures are due today. As of June 30, Democrat Terry McAuliffe had $6 million in cash on hand to Cuccinelli’s $2.7 million.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for McAuliffe at her Washington home Sept. 30. McAuliffe was chairman of Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Today’s appearance is Rubio’s third in the Richmond area in 18 months.

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch on September 16, 2013.

Why Conservative Crusader Ken Cuccinelli Can Win Virginia

t’s possible that no Republican in America, save Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich, engenders more open abhorrence from Beltway Democrats than Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Talk to strategists for Democratic groups and abortion-rights organizations about Cuccinelli, and the GOP gubernatorial candidate’s name usually evokes sarcasm or audible shivers.

It’s easy to see why. He challenged President Obama’s health-care law and helped push it to the Supreme Court. He supports regulations on abortion clinics and defunding Planned Parenthood. He labeled the Obama administration “the biggest set of lawbreakers in America” and he dubbed the Environmental Protection Agency the “agency of mass destruction.”

All of that has endeared Cuccinelli to conservatives like the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, which is airing ads in his support, and it’s made bitter enemies of Democrats.

“The Democrats live in existential dread of Ken Cuccinelli,” one Virginia Republican told ABC.

A governor’s race doesn’t typically hinge on social issues, and Cuccinelli and his opponent, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, have kicked off their TV campaigns with ads that avoid them, showcasing the candidates as a devoted public servant and a job-creator, respectively. The governor’s race, as Republican and Democratic operatives told ABC News, will be about state management: roads, bridges and jobs.

The race has begun in earnest, with McAuliffe appearing in Richmond today with Sen. Tim Kaine, the former governor who also formerly headed the DNC, in the first of a series of public events this week to officially launch his campaign.

Cuccinelli’s candidacy, against a former Democratic fundraiser and strategist, raises a question: Even if he sticks to a public-service script, can an alleged megaconservative win in a purple state?

Virginia has now voted for Obama twice in a row, giving the president 53 percent in 2008 and 51 percent in 2012. It hadn’t gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, and before that 1948.

McAuliffe talks of SOL reform with Roanoke County teachers

September 5, 2013 / David Ress / Roanoke Times

Working the crowd at most campaign stops means lots of handshaking — but for Terry McAuliffe and the fourth-grade lunch crowd Wednesday at Green Valley Elementary School, it meant fist bumps, too.

“I’m going to make sure you get a good education,” the Democratic candidate for governor told one girl.

“Maybe I’ll be president!” the boy sitting across from her called out. “Maybe you will,” McAuliffe replied.

Then, the fist bump.

On the second day of a statewide campaign push on education, McAuliffe stopped by the Roanoke County school to say he favors putting more money into Virginia’s public schools. But he ended up learning something, too.

Teachers at the school, joined by county testing supervisor Ben Williams, were upset by an obscure addition to the state’s manual for assessing schools that looks as if it is going to give the award-winning Green Valley a black mark.

“That’s something I’m going to fix,” McAuliffe replied. “A great school like this shouldn’t be stigmatized if a score is down 1 percent.”

The black mark looks possible because still-to-be-released test data could show that even though Green Valley is meeting academic performance targets set by the state, its actual results on some may have slipped from the year before, Williams said.

Under what school officials call the “no backslide” standard and state education officials call the “maintain higher expectations” standard, that means the school could be designated as not meeting federal accountability standards. The rule comes from state government, not Washington, and was meant to keep the pressure on high-performing schools like Green Valley.

The state successfully argued to Washington that the latter’s No Child Left Behind Act standards were imposing unrealistic expectations. That gave county school officials hope that academic targets set by the state would free them to focus more on students’ critical thinking skills instead of just passing tests.

And at Green Valley, McAuliffe heard an earful about Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests, too.

Parent Laura Bowman said test-taking and preparing for test-taking consumed 45 days or more of the school year, while third-grade teacher Amy Brielle said the focus on learning what’s on the test narrows the scope of what students learn.

McAuliffe said the tests badly need reform — a view he shares with his Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli.

But the two differ sharply on school choice — giving parents financial help to send children to private schools.

Cuccinelli has said he wanted to repeal a portion of the state Constitution, one of the so-called “Blaine Amendments” that originally date to the late 19th century, which says state funds can only be appropriated to public schools. McAuliffe said ending that ban would drain money from public schools.

McAuliffe said Cuccinelli’s proposed cuts to personal and business income taxes would cost the state $1.4 billion a year in revenue, which would translate to a $525 million cut in state aid to education.

McAuliffe said he’d boost spending on schools by agreeing to expand Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled. The federal funds that come with an expansion would allow the state to free up $500 million now spent on health care, which McAuliffe said he would redirect to education.

“As Ken has made abundantly clear, his tax cut proposal will not touch education, period,” spokeswoman Anna Nix said. “Repealing the Blaine Amendment would not take any money from public schools but only level the playing field and offer K-12 students the same opportunities we offer college students through the Tuition Assistance Grant program.”

She said McAuliffe’s proposed redirection of Medicaid savings “would mean he’s banking our children’s education on a federal government program that has already broken multiple funding promises and missed numerous deadlines.”


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday cast the Virginia governor’s race as not only a fight between Republican Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, but a battle for the idea of American exceptionalism in an uncertain world.

Mr. Rubio, a Florida Republican and possible 2016 GOP presidential contender, headlined a fundraiser at the downtown Richmond Marriott to lend Mr. Cuccinelli some high-profile help as he tries to keep pace with Mr. McAuliffe over the last seven weeks of the race.

Mr. Rubio said the election is not just about beating a Democrat and winning a governor’s seat, noting that the media often paints campaigns in a superficial, “horserace” light.

“But in politics, it has real consequences in the lives of real people,” he said. “And I cannot imagine a time in my lifetime where the consequences have been higher.”

He said that such an election will reverberate even beyond America’s borders.

“I would ask you to envision a world without a exceptional America,” he told the crowd, saying that if America declines, nothing — not the United Nations, not China, and not “Putin’s Russia” — can replace it.

The Democrats, he said, are pouring money into the race from all over the country to try to convince Americans that the government is the cure to all that ails the U.S.

“For them, it’s about convincing America that government is the solution to all of our problems,” he said. “You pick a problem, they’ve got a government program to solve it. You pick an issue; they’ve got a tax they claim will make it better.”

“This is a precursor for what’s going to happen in 2014 and, after that, in 2016,” he continued, alluding to the midterm elections and the next presidential election cycle. “There’s still going to be an America after Barack Obama, by the way. There’s going to be a lot of [messes] to clean up. A lot of dreams to be restored. An entire economy to be reinvigorated. But we can’t wait until 2016 to start the work. We’ve got to start now, we’ve got to start in Virginia, we’ve got to start with Ken Cuccinelli, and I encourage you to do everything you can to make that happen.”

Mr. Rubio spent much of his time telling his own personal story as the son of Cuban immigrants who were able to make better lives for themselves in America.

“That’s what’s at stake today in American politics, and that’s what’s at stake in this race in Virginia,” he said.

For his part, Mr. Cuccinelli said he first met Mr. Rubio in April 2010 during his initial run for the U.S. Senate in Florida, and was impressed with him then.

“He is one of the leaders of our party across the country, and it is an honor to have him here in the capital of Virginia in Richmond,” the Virginian said. Mr. Rubio “has a unique ability to communicate conservative principles and tie in his personal story and his family’s story. And it is inspiring to hear.”

Mr. Cuccinelli also asked the crowd for a moment of silence in light of the ongoing situation involving the shootings at Navy Yard in the District.

Recent polls have showed Mr. McAuliffe with a modest lead in the race, but on Monday Mr. Cuccinelli also won the endorsement of TechPAC, the political arm of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC). The endorsement was scheduled to be announced Friday, but the Washington Post reported that it was delayed after Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign, among others, lobbied for the board to change its decision.

“The TechPAC Board of Trustees concluded that Ken Cuccinelli’s experience in Virginia government, command of the issues, and knowledge of key technology priorities will serve him well as Governor in working to ensure the Commonwealth remains a competitive and innovative global technology center,” said Dendy Young, TechPAC Chairman and CEO of McLean Capital LLC.

The NVTC itself said Monday that it would not be endorsing a candidate in the race, and that TechPAC’s endorsement “may not itself reflect the views of NVTC’s membership.”

In his remarks Monday, Mr. Cuccinelli accused Mr. McAuliffe of trying to “bully” the council into not giving him the endorsement. Mr. McAuliffe has consistently argued throughout the campaign that Mr. Cuccinelli’s positions on such social issues as abortion and gay marriage would drive businesses out of the state.

Mr. Cuccinelli said the endorsement ensures that such a “false theme” is “wiped out.”

“It’s wiped out. It’s completely gutted,” he told reporters after the luncheon. “It was never true in the first place, and now people who don’t get to spend hours with me and hours with Terry McAuliffe, digging into us and asking questions, look to an organization that is not Republican, Democrat, independent or any of the other things but that did spend that time, that came out on a substantive basis for the candidate who was better prepared to answer questions to deal with policy issues even where we didn’t all agree than the other candidate, and that was me. And that’s what I think should matter to voters is the real meat of this and the reason for this endorsement. Not merely the fact of it but the reasons for it.”

Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign did not provide a response related to the endorsement, but did issue a statement highlighting the differences on the issue of immigration between Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. Rubio, one of the key players in a bill in the U.S. Senate that would create a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants in the country.

At their first debate in July, Mr. Cuccinelli expressed general support for some kind of immigration reform, but did not say whether such a move should include a path to citizenship, the largest sticking point among Republican base voters.

Mr. Cuccinelli also seized on comments from Mr. McAuliffe that he will not sign a budget unless it includes an expansion of Medicaid that’s part of Obamacare, saying during his remarks that the Democrat is “prepared to shut down Virginia government” to expand the health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled.

A spokesman for Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign said that Medicaid expansion is a top priority for the Democrat and that he hopes to work in a bipartisan manner to get it done.

“Ken Cuccinelli is once again trying to change the subject from his long record of putting his extreme agenda ahead of what is best for Virginians,” spokesman Josh Schwerin said in an email.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Times on September 16, 2013.

Virginia governor GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli launches website that pushes for reinstatement of state’s anti-sodomy law

Virginia governor GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli launches website that pushes for reinstatement of state’s anti-sodomy law

The conservative Republican candidate for Virginia governor has begun advertising his efforts to reinstate an archaic and unconstitutional state law that make consensual oral or anal sex acts illegal.

Ken Cuccinelli, locked in a tight race for Virginia’s top office, launched a new campaign website Wednesday that showcases his attempts to bring back the state’s “Crimes Against Nature” law, which was struck down by federal courts earlier this year.

The law makes consensual oral or anal sex acts felonies, even for married couples who commit the acts in the privacy of their own homes.

Cuccinelli’s new site,, highlights 90 people identified as “sexual predators” in Virginia who “would come off Virginia’s sex offender registry if a Virginia law … is not upheld.”

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