Multiple outlets are reporting that Virginia Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is planning to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2013. And while some Democrats may be tempted to celebrate the news and proclaim that Cuccinelli is considered by some to be too far to the right to win, they do so at their own peril.
He proved an ideological conservative can win in heavily-Democratic Fairfax County, where one out of every seven residents of Virginia lives, during his two state Senate campaigns in 2003 and 2007.
After just barely winning reelection by about 100 votes, he topped a Fairfax County Democrat, former Del. Steve Shannon, in the 2009 attorney general's race by 15 points. He actually picked up over 17,000 more votes than GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling did in his re-election run. Bolling is considered Cuccinelli's main potential GOP opponent for governor.
A run by Cuccinelli is not unexpected, as he's long been looking at higher office. And word of his pending announcement -- said to be within days -- comes just before Cuccinelli is set to receive national air time on Saturday.
He is one of three state attorneys general scheduled to interview GOP presidential candidates on issues related to federalism and executive power during a Fox News forum hosted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
A former Fairfax County resident who now lives in the farming community of Nokesville in the western most part of Northern Virginia, Cuccinelli would start as the early favorite for the Republican nomination over Bolling, who has not officially declared his candidacy but is expected to run.
Cuccinelli would have an immediate advantage over Bolling due to his strong tea party support, his experience running in extremely competitive races both as a primary and general election candidate, and his national fundraising network. Bolling, likewise, would be cast by Cuccinelli and his allies as the establishment candidate, with Gov. Bob McDonnell
and Mitt Romney
as his primary backers.
Cuccinelli is best known nationally for his lawsuit against the Obama administration over the constitutionality of the national health care law, specifically over the individual mandate.
But during his two years in as attorney general, Cuccinelli has picked high-profile fights not just with the federal government, but at the state level too on issues particularly endearing to the commonwealth's most conservative voters.
He's grappled with the University of Virginia over climate change and universities more broadly over gay rights. The latter in particular put McDonnell in a tough spot and forced him to issue a directive
barring discrimination against same-sex state employees.
Cuccinelli was also was one of the most conservative members of the state Senate from 2004-2009 before handily winning his current office.
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe
is expected to run again after losing in the 2009 primary. Democrats are also likely to court Fairfax state Sen. Chap Petersen
, who lost a primary for lieutenant governor in 2005.