New Va. at­tor­ney gen­eral ready to take on feds

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SARAH ABRUZZESE

Vir­ginia At­tor­ney Gen­eral-elect Kenneth T. Cuc­cinelli II is known for speak­ing his mind.

As he pre­pares next month to be sworn in as the top at­tor­ney for the state, noth­ing has changed. For those con­cerned that the at­tor­ney gen­eral-elect is go­ing to em­brace his con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples and take on any­one who op­poses those be­liefs — even the fed­eral gov­ern­ment — Mr. Cuc­cinelli said they are right to be con­cerned.

“If they’re wor­ried that I’m go­ing to sue the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, their worry is well-placed,” Mr. Cuc­cinelli said.

In the Repub­li­can state se­na­tor’s ac­cep­tance speech af­ter winning the elec­tion in Novem­ber, he promised to fight for Vir­gini­ans — even if that meant tak­ing on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on con­tro­ver­sial is­sues such as the union or­ga­niz­ing sys­tem known as card check.

“Nor­mally there is a fight over a bill in Congress, and if it passes it goes to the pres­i­dent and if he signs that bill, that’s typ­i­cally the end of the fight,” he said. “But I’ve got news for you. If we see an over­reach­ing bill like card check, the pres­i­dent’s sig­na­ture won’t be the last fight on that bill.”

Mr. Cuc­cinelli said that un­der his lead­er­ship the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice will in­clude a group fo- cused on ex­am­in­ing fed­eral laws. He said the group, which will be small so as not to im­pact on other pri­or­i­ties, won’t be looking at pre­vi­ous laws but rather those go­ing for­ward that im­pact Vir­gini­ans.

It is not that Mr. Cuc­cinelli wants to as­sert greater states’ rights, he said, but he would like to shrink the size and in­tru­sion of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. So, for in­stance, if the cur­rent bal­ance of power be­tween fed­eral and state gov­ern­ment is 10 to one in fa­vor of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, he would like to see that ra­tio tighten to five to one.

“The devil’s in the de­tails,” he said, adding that he will wait un­til af­ter a fed­eral law is passed and de­ter­mine whether it im­pinges on the rights of Vir­gini­ans and whether the state has stand­ing to sue the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“We’re looking for op­por­tu­ni­ties to right the con­struc­tional bal­ance, which is in my view cur­rently out of bal­ance,” Mr. Cuc­cinelli said.

Asked whether that would make him an ac­tivist, Mr. Cuc­cinelli said he sees him­self more in a preser­va­tion­ist or con­ser­va­tion­ist role.

He said he thinks there is a court fight com­ing over the state’s ho­mo­sex­ual mar­riage laws. Vir­gini­ans vot­ers ap­proved a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment in Novem­ber 2006 that de­fines mar­riage as be­tween a man and a woman. Mr. Cuc­cinelli also said he will de­fend the state’s 2003 law that bans par­tial birth abor­tion if it comes be­fore the U.S. Supreme Court dur­ing his ten­ure. A pri­or­ity for him will be work­ing to re­form the laws to elim­i­nate re­dun­dan­cies and in­con­sis­ten­cies in the way state health of­fi­cials in­ter­act with men­tally ill pa­tients. Mr. Cuc­cinelli said he will also con­tinue Robert F. McDon­nell’s anti-gang ini­tia­tives.

The con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can said the news should come as no sur­prise.

“For starters, I’m con­sis­tent,” he said. “I’m not sneak­ing up on peo­ple with this. I’ve been say­ing it for a year and a half. I tried to give vot­ers a very clear choice,” he said.

He is study­ing how the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice runs and fig­ur­ing out his plans, es­pe­cially as he deals with the very real pos­si­bil­i­ties of a di­min­ished bud­get.

It re­mains to be seen how many em­ploy­ees of the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice will be tapped by Mr. McDon­nell, the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor-elect who served as at­tor­ney gen­eral be­fore Fe­bru­ary when he re­signed to run for gov­er­nor.

While the two men have spo­ken about per­son­nel and le­gal mat­ters, Mr. Cuc­cinelli said it is still un­cer­tain how many of his staffers will fol­low their pre­vi­ous boss.

Mr. Cuc­cinelli has a long his­tory of fight­ing against those things he sees as wrong.

Dur­ing his ac­cep­tance speech af­ter winning his party’s nom­i­na­tion for at­tor­ney gen­eral in June, the 41-year-old lawyer and fa­ther of seven took his party to task for fail­ing to ad­here to the prin­ci­ples that he said de­fine the party.

“We are in the mi­nor­ity in Wash­ing­ton and here in Vir­ginia be­cause Repub­li­cans aban­doned their core prin­ci­ples,” he told a room full of party faith­ful at the Repub­li­can nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion.

Mr. Cuc­cinelli speaks pas­sion­ately about the im­por­tance of up­hold­ing his be­liefs. He at­tributes his state Se­nate vic­to­ries, even in an in­creas­ingly lib­eral area such as North­ern Vir­ginia, to his un­wa­ver­ing sup­port of con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can prin­ci­ples.

He sees those con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples as pop­u­lar in his old district and the rea­son why the three Repub­li­cans vy­ing to re­place him cam­paigned as the most con­ser­va­tive, the most like him.

Repub­li­cans nom­i­nated Steve Hunt on Dec. 1. Mr. Cuc­cinelli said he thinks the Repub­li­can is well po­si­tioned to win the spe­cial elec­tion to be held Jan. 12.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY AL­LI­SON SHEL­LEY/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Kenneth T. Cuc­cinelli II, at­tor­ney gen­eral-elect for Vir­ginia, is ready to take on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for the state on con­tro­ver­sial is­sues such as the union or­ga­niz­ing sys­tem known as card check.

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