Monday, March 31, 2008

Ken Cuccinelli to Run for AG

Last night, I received an email from Ken Cuccinelli. He very graciously invited me to participate in a bloggers teleconference before making an announcement regarding his plans for next year's AG race.

And it was extremely gracious of Senator Cuccinelli to include me, which he did because I am a constituent of his. I am also, however, a liberal Democrat not likley to support his candidacy.

Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of the work day, interruptions by co-workers, and the glitches of technology, I was not able to get on the teleconference. After fielding the interruptions at work, and finally dialing in, I kept getting a busy signal. By then, about 12:15, I am pretty sure they were well into the conference because the Cooch had a press conference scheduled for the mainstream media to begin at 12:30. Anyway, below is the press release I received last night.

Fairfax, Virginia, March 30, 2008 – Virginia State Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th) Friday announced a press conference to be held on Monday, March 31st at 12:30 pm. The press conference will occur in front of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway; Fairfax, Virginia 22035.

Cuccinelli will address his intentions regarding the 2009 race for the Republican nomination for Virginia Attorney General: “Having had some time at home after General Assembly session, my wife and I have made some decisions about this race that are now final enough to share.”

Cuccinelli, a partner in the law firm of Cuccinelli & Day, PLLC, was first elected to the Senate of Virginia in a 2002 special election. He serves on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and has worked closely with the Attorney General’s office on key public safety and public interest legislation.

I am pretty sure that by now the word is out that Cuccinelli has indeed announced. Indeed at his website, it's official that he's running to be the commonwealth's attorney general.

I have some suggestions for whoever becomes the Democratic nominee for the AG's race. The first is don't label Ken an extremist or try to portray him as a wild eyed fanatic.

It always backfires, as Janet Oleszek discovered. The problem with labeling Ken Cuccinelli is that he appears to be a personable, reasonable, and nice person who just happens to hold some opinions that differ from those of most of his constituents. But he will listen to them earnestly and treat them politely - except in a debate, where he's murder if you're not prepared. But politely so, which is more devastating.

Another problem is that the public is pretty cynical about any politician, so when one tries to portray his opponent in a way that doesn't match what people think they are seeing, they will discount the attack as "just politics" in the worst sense of the word and the attack will not only backfire, it will cause a backlash against the attacker.

So what's the strategy for a Democrat to win the AG's race?

The most important strategem is to avoid the culture wars and avoid name calling. Don't talk past the real concerns of voters to launch an attack on what you think is Ken's biggest vulnerability, his views on abortion or other social issues. First, stick to what the voters are most concerned about. For example, in Ken's state senate race last year, Janet Oleszek, a truly gifted and intelligent woman, insisted on focusing on Ken's record on reproductive choice. But voters everywhere in her district were up in arms about the transportation package, especially the abuser fees. Whoever was advising her campaign did her a disservice by convincing her that the culture wars was the way to go.

In the AG's race, focus on the issues relevant to the office and make the case for why the Democrat would be a better choice.

I'll have a lot more to say about this race later on. But 2009 is a long way off.

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