Virginia’s Republican Party appears poised to nominate state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to be its candidate for governor in 2013 — embracing a man whose extreme political views bear striking resemblance to those of unsuccessful 2012 Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO).
With his fervent anti-science, anti-choice, and anti-LGBT, anti-federal government activism, Akin’s extreme positions were well known long before his infamous August pronouncement that victims of “legitimate rape” are unlikely to become pregnant helped derail his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign. Cuccinelli’s views closely mirror Akin’s in all of those areas.
Over seven-and-a-half years as a Virginia state senator and three years as the commonwealth’s attorney general, Republican Ken Cuccinelli II has been, in the words of the Washington Post’s editorial board, “the most overtly partisan attorney general in Virginia’s history.” Though he claims he is “best known for his efforts to preserve liberty and defend the US Constitution,” it is his opposition to liberty for women and LGBT Americans and his frequent court losses based on his flawed constitutional theories that have defined his political career to date.
While perhaps not as careless as Akin with his rhetoric, Cuccinelli has embraced many of the same extreme positions:
1. He wants an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. His 2002 campaign website laid out Cuccinelli’s abortion views clearly: “Ken believes that human life begins at conception, and that human beings should be respected and protected from conception to natural death,” it said. “Ken would seek to require sonograms to be part of a 24-hour waiting period with an informed consent requirement. Ken opposes abortions that are not for the purpose of saving the mother’s life.” Over his political career, he has pushed to defund Planned Parenthood and embryonic stem cell research. He pushed for a ban on third trimester abortions — making no exception for serious health risks on the woman — and for “safety” regulations for abortion providers designed to force clinics to close. He has also highlighted his opposition to RU-486 and his support for a “conscience” law protecting the “right of professionals to refuse to perform an action that is inconsistent with their moral convictions” — such as providing emergency contraception — “without losing their job.” Cuccinelli frequently attacks Planned Parenthood and has suggested that the fact that abortion clinics in Virginia are in urban areas with large African American populations is an example of white racism. His “ultimate goal,” he has said, is to “make abortion disappear in America.”
2. He does not believe LGBT people deserve legal protections. Cuccinelli has made it clear that he believes same-sex relationships are immoral. In 2009, he told a Virginia newspaper, “My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that.” After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case that such bans were unconstitutional, he still voted against repealing a state law making consensual sodomy a felony. He has actively pushed for state and federal constitutional amendments to prevent any legal recogntition of what he terms “what they’d like to refer to as ‘homosexual families,’” authoring a resolution calling for a federal amendment to invalidate any same-sex marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, or “other relationship analogous to marriage.” He has opined that “giving public sanction to homosexual marriage ends up redefining marriage and it’s certain to harm children.” He even opposed a state bill that allowed private companies to voluntarily provide health insurance benefits to employees’ domestic partners, warning it might “encourage this type of behavior.” His advisory opinion that Virginia’s public colleges and universities should rescind their non-discrimination policies was called “reprehensible” by a former Republican state legislator.
3. He is a climate-change denier. As part of his efforts to cast doubt on climate-change science, he used his position to launch an inquisition against a former University of Virginia climate scientist. Citing possible “fraud against taxpayers,” Cuccinelli demanded the university provide him with a wide range of records relating Dr. Michael E. Mann’s grant applications. A circuit judge and then the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the Attorney General was incorrect in believing he had the legal authority to undertake such a fishing expedition. He blasted the ruling, newspapers blasted him for wasting Virginia tax dollars. He also failed in his federal lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas — a unanimous appeals court upheld the agency’s regulations as based on an “unambiguously correct” reading of the law. Since his legal efforts for climate-change denial failed, he often relies on mockery, asking audiences to exhale carbon dioxide in unison, during his speeches, to annoy the EPA.
4. He suggested President Obama stole the 2012 election. In a radio interview, Cuccinelli told the host he completely agreed with her assertion that investigations are needed to determine why President Obama lost “every one” of the states with photo identification requirements for voting, yet won re-election. Though studies have shown Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud, he told the host she was “preaching to the choir” with her unfounded theory.
5. He wants Arizona-style anti-immigrant policies and self-deportation. On his 2007 campaign website, he explained that since the federal government “has been negligent in its responsibility to secure our borders,” he was “committed to passing legislation that removes the economic incentives that fuel illegal immigration.” To do this, he opposed in-state tuition for undocumented students, embraced limits on the number of people who can live in a house, and supported civil litigation so competitors could sue when a rival “employer knowingly hires illegal aliens.” He opposed bipartisan immigration reform efforts as “amnesty” for the “illegal aliens in the job market” who are “depressing wages and reducing American’s standard of living.” In 2010, he wrote in an opinion that “Virginia law enforcement officers, including conservation officers may, like Arizona police officers, inquire into the immigration status of persons stopped or arrested.” And Cuccinelli joined an amicus brief defending key provisions of Arizona’s immigration reform law which were later ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
6. He is a “tenther.” Cuccinelli has embraced a radical interpretation of the constitution that the federal government should cede much more power to the states under the 10th Amendment. At a 2010 Tenth Amendment rally in Richmond, he told supporters of the view that “what we can do, where we live, is advocate again to bring back to life the 10th amendment, to bring back to life those boundaries in our constitutional system that were supposed to be the critical checks in the checks and balances system. Without them, we lose – gradually, we lose our liberty.” In one of his briefs challenging health reform, Cuccinelli suggested that Congress is allowed to regulate “commerce on one hand” but not “manufacturing or agriculture.” This is exactly the same discredited vision of the Constitution the Supreme Court implemented in the late 19th and early 20th century, and it would strike down child labor laws, the minimum wage, the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters, and countless other cherished laws.
On top of all of this, he also opposed a 2004 bill to require members of the clergy to report child abuse — a bill supported by almost every religious group in the state — and was the lone vote against another bill aimed as strengthening domestic violence protections.