Bolling bat­tles Cuc­cinelli for a share of the spot­light

At­tor­ney gen­eral sprints ahead op­pos­ing health law

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

RICH­MOND | Virginia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken­neth T. Cuc­cinelli II railed against the fed­eral health care law be­fore hun­dreds of tea party ac­tivists on the Mall on Satur­day, call­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion “the great­est set of law­break­ers to ever run the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in our life­times.”

On Wed­nes­day, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling sim­i­larly de­nounced the law as “a di­rect as­sault on lib­erty that we all hold dear in this coun­try” — only his re­marks were made in Rich­mond in the din­ing room of a small busi­ness, where he was flanked by a hand­ful of state and na­tional Re­pub­li­can lead­ers.

As the 2013 gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign gets un­der way, health care is likely to be one area where Mr. Cuc­cinelli has an ad­van­tage over Mr. Bolling — an edge he is al­ready be­gin­ning to ex­ploit.

“When you’re a Re­pub­li­can at­tor­ney gen­eral and there’s a Demo­cratic pres­i­dent in the White House, the en­vi­ron­ment is tai­lor-made for Virginia’s at­tor­ney gen­eral to be one of the most vis­i­ble points of op­po­si­tion to that Demo­cratic pres­i­dent,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Mary Washington. “Cuc­cinelli has owned health care from day one in Virginia. What­ever the Supreme Court de­cides, Cuc­cinelli does not lose.”

Mr. Cuc­cinelli was the first to file a law­suit against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment over the re­form, say­ing a state law stip­u­lat­ing that no Vir­gini­ans could be forced to pur­chase health care coun­tered the fed­eral man­date that most Amer­i­cans pur­chase health in­sur­ance or face a penalty.

The Supreme Court de­cided not to hear Virginia’s case, but that didn’t stop Mr. Cuc­cinelli from head­ing to Washington to lis­ten in on the ar­gu­ments in a sep­a­rate, multi-state law­suit.

“I think things went well for the limited gov­ern­ment side, for the states,” he said Wed­nes­day. “I think they may rip the whole law out. I have been cau­tiously op­ti­mistic from the start. I got more op­ti­mistic yes­ter­day.”

Mr. Bolling may be united with Mr. Cuc­cinelli in op­po­si­tion to the fed­eral health care law, but the two have traded jabs since the at­tor­ney gen­eral an­nounced in De­cem­ber he would seek the Re­pub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­na­tion in 2013.

Af­ter the an­nounce­ment, Mr. Bolling is­sued a state­ment ac­cus­ing Mr. Cuc­cinelli of putting his own am­bi­tions ahead of the good of the party by run­ning against him in what likely will be a bruis­ing pri­mary bat­tle.

Mr. Cuc­cinelli’s wife, Teiro, re­cently fired back, writ­ing to sup­port­ers that “in the past two years, it has be­come clear that Virginia and the rest of the coun­try are suf­fer­ing from a lack of firm, prin­ci­pled con­ser­va­tive lead­ers . . . men and women will­ing not just to talk about our prin­ci­ples, but to stick their necks out and lead on tough is­sues!”

Mr. Bolling took um­brage at the com­ments — not just for him­self, but on be­half of Gov. Bob Mcdon­nell and other Re­pub­li­can lead­ers around the state.

“I don’t have the fog­gi­est idea of what she was talk­ing about, and I con­sider her com­ments to be an at­tack on Gov. Mcdon­nell and me and ev­ery other Re­pub­li­can leader that has worked hard for the past two years to get our state back on the right track,” Mr. Bolling said. “Virginia has had very strong and prin­ci­pled con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship for the last two years, and for some­one to come out of the blocks at­tack­ing Virginia’s Re­pub­li­can lead­er­ship in that way I thought was a bit over-the-top.”

Mr. Bolling said the two men still talk. Mr. Cuc­cinelli’s of­fice de­fended the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor in a law­suit chal­leng­ing Mr. Bolling’s abil­ity to cast tie-break­ing votes on mat­ters of or­ga­ni­za­tion in the Se­nate. The law­suit was later dropped.

Mr. Cuc­cinelli, in part be­cause of high-pro­file law­suits against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, main­tains higher name recog­ni­tion in both Virginia and across the coun­try than Mr. Bolling.

The Re­pub­li­can Party of Iowa an­nounced this week that the at­tor­ney gen­eral will key­note the state’s an­nual Lin­coln din­ner in May. And nearly half of the Virginia vot­ers polled in a re­cent Quin­nip­iac sur­vey this month had no opin­ion on Mr. Bolling. In Mr. Cuc­cinelli’s case, the num­ber was un­der 25 per­cent.

While both men are still gen­er­ally viewed by Virginia vot­ers fa­vor­ably, Mr. Bolling ap­pears in­ter­ested in test­ing whether the high-pro­file is­sues Mr. Cuc­cinelli is best known for might work against him on the cam­paign trail.

He cau­tioned that for Repub­li­cans to suc­ceed in Novem­ber and be­yond, they can­not fall prey to be­com­ing a party of rigid ide­ol­ogy.

“Gov­ern­ing has to be about more than break­ing the dishes,” he said. “It has to be about build­ing con­sen­sus and find­ing so­lu­tions to prob­lems. . . . We have to be viewed as a con­ser­va­tive party whose fo­cus is on re­sults.”

PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Virginia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken­neth T. Cuc­cinelli II filed suit on be­half of the state against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment over the health re­form act. He spoke to tea party ac­tivists gath­ered on the Mall on Satur­day.

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