Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II is the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia in this year’s election. A recent Roanoke College poll shows him up by 8 points over his Democrat opponent Terry McAuliffe among registered voters. For the past three and a half years, Mr. Cuccinelli has served as attorney general of the commonwealth. In the 2009 election for his current post, he won office with a comfortable 58% of the vote. Previous public service included a seat in the Old Dominion’s state Senate from 2002-10. This attorney general has been on the forefront of important cases with national import such as restricting the government’s power to steal citizens’ land through eminent domain and challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare in federal court. You can find out more about him and his campaign at: cuccinelli.com
Decker: President Obama and many on the left keep talking about an economic recovery that is supposedly underway. I doubt the growing millions of long-term unemployed and all the families struggling to make ends meet see things heading in the right direction. What do you propose to get America working and growing again?
Cuccinelli: Until the Obama administration stops picking winners and losers in our economy – inevitably resulting in more losers – I think it’s going to be hard to see the kind of robust economic recovery we so badly need. It’s imperative we give our businesses – small and large – the freedom to grow and create jobs.
The decisions I have made as attorney general – from challenging the constitutionality of the federal healthcare law to stopping the EPA from illegally attempting to regulate storm water like a pollutant – have been driven by a commitment to protecting the rule of law and keeping opportunity alive in Virginia and America.
In the coming weeks, I will be rolling out a series of policy proposals designed to make Virginia more attractive to businesses and competitive in today’s global economy by making our government more efficient, simplifying our tax code and reducing burdensome regulations.
Decker: As attorney general of the commonwealth, you have worked on a lot of low-publicity issues that range from human trafficking and predators of children to seeking justice for the wrongly convicted. Can you talk a little about these subjects that are important to you but that don’t get much attention? How do they fit into your general worldview?
Cuccinelli: I have always made it a priority to protect the vulnerable. I grew up in a family where it was expected to give your time to help others. My high school, Gonzaga, placed an emphasis on serving others. My church encouraged charity and helping others. I believe if God graces you with strength and health, you should use your blessings to help the less fortunate as circumstances allow. It is a value I grew up with and carried with me throughout life, including my time in public office.
In the state Senate, I served on the Human Trafficking Commission and introduced legislation to make laws tougher on human traffickers. As attorney general, I have created an effort to fight human trafficking from scratch. We now have local, state and federal partnerships all over Virginia fighting human trafficking. My office also actively works to protect our children online, and we have convicted over 90 child predators since I took office. Our rate of obtaining convictions has now reached an all-time high. We also help local law enforcement work their own child-predator cases.
I have long-believed it is just as important to keep innocent people out of jail as it is to punish those guilty of crime. I am proud my office has a reputation of fighting for the rights of the wrongly accused. I believe that when I leave office, I will have the interesting distinction of having helped more wrongfully convicted felons get exonerated than any attorney general before me.
Decker: You have concentrated attention on mental-health reforms throughout your career. Is the system broken? What needs to be done to fix it?
Cuccinelli: I found my passion for helping the mentally ill soon after law school. During weeks when I was representing people suffering from mental illness, I would get up at 4 a.m. and travel to Mt. Vernon Hospital to represent them in their involuntary commitment hearings. The struggles these people faced, due to no fault of their own, made me realize the need for a better mental health system.
Years later, after I was elected to the state Senate, I introduced numerous bills to make our court process more favorable, compassionate and accessible to those suffering from mental illness. A sampling of these included making it easier to receive trained legal counsel in involuntary commitment hearings and making outpatient treatment more accessible before commitment hearings. As attorney general, I am committing asset-forfeiture money to train law-enforcement officials how to better work with the mentally ill.
I think it’s critically important for the governor to be a voice and an advocate for the most vulnerable in our society, including those who suffer from mental illness and their families. If I am fortunate enough to be elected in November, I will bring my decade and a half of experience in the area of mental health to the governor’s office.
Decker: The 2012 election was terrible for the GOP, which now has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests. Is this losing streak a problem of style, substance, or both? What do conservatives need to do to start winning national elections again?
Cuccinelli: I won three state senate elections in a difficult Northern Virginia district that everyone said was too liberal for me to win. The key to reaching voters is being honest with them and making sure they always know where you stand. Throughout my time in the state senate and as attorney general, I have had constituents come up to me and say, “Ken, I may not always agree with you, but I’m glad I know where you stand.”
I firmly believe that Virginians are looking for a governor who won’t always tell them what they want to hear, but will speak candidly while looking for solutions. Even my biggest detractors will admit that I am a man of my word. I intend to execute my job as governor with the same kind of straightforward, principled leadership I have always practiced in public office.
Decker: America is at a crossroads in so many ways. What do you worry about when you can’t sleep at night?
Cuccinelli: I worry that our country will lose sight of the principles our Founding Fathers put in place. Fundamental principles, such as individual freedom and limited government, must not be taken for granted. They require constant vigilance on the part of lawmakers, members of the media and citizens.
Over the years, our federal government has only grown larger. As a result, our national debt has grown to frightening and unsustainable levels. If we don’t start taking serious steps to reduce the size and scope of government, our children are going to inherit a weaker economy with fewer jobs and greater levels of debt. While there’s no doubt in my mind that America’s greatest days can be ahead of us, we have much work to do!
America is in dire need of real leadership that doesn’t shy away from or gloss over problems, but confronts them head on. That’s the kind of leadership I intend to provide as Virginia’s next governor.
Brett M. Decker is Editor-in-Chief of Rare. Follow him on Twitter @BrettMDecker