Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli speaks at the opening of his Harrisonburg campaign office on Saturday. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
HARRISONBURG — When Ken Cuccinelli came to Harrisonburg Saturday for the official opening of his local campaign office — only the second to open statewide — he and others acknowledged that Republicans can’t skip a beat between now and November if they want the state’s attorney general to make it to the governor’s mansion.
“We don’t need to outspend them, but we do need to outwork them,” Cuccinelli said about the campaign of his likely Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe, a Northern Virginia businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
After saying that the last time he was in the Harrisonburg office was the day before President Barack Obama was reelected, he later added, “You all saw how they outperformed us. They did it better than we did, and we have to catch up some.”
Cuccinelli is the presumptive Republican candidate for governor, with his official nomination expected to come in May.
He stopped by the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republican committees’ headquarters, which is now serving as his local campaign office, just days before Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is expected to make an announcement that could drastically affect the race.
Bolling has set a Thursday deadline for announcing whether he will run as an independent for the position being vacated early next year by Gov. Bob McDonnell, who by law may not serve two consecutive terms as governor.
Bolling bowed out of the race for the Republican nomination in November, after the conservative wing of the GOP pushed through a switch in the nominating process, from a statewide primary to a party convention. Conventions tend to attract more of the conservative party faithful and it became clear that Cuccinelli — a favorite of the tea party — would have been a clear favorite over the more moderate Bolling in a two-way race decided by convention.
For Bolling, getting into the race now would be “starting from scratch,” Cuccinelli said in an interview after the event.
“We’d rather have a more traditional race, and we’d rather have him still on the team,” he added.
Laura Logie, a Rockingham County resident who’s worked on Republican campaigns since the 1960s, has emailed Bolling asking him not to run.
“If Bolling doesn’t run, we’ll be good,” she said. “Running as an independent’s no good. It’ll divide the votes up.”
She, like many others in the crowd of several dozen, praised Cuccinelli, saying he stays true to conservative values.
“He’s so solid on the founding principles,” said Mount Jackson area resident Suzanne Curran, listing ideals such as “free markets, the power of ‘We the People’ and individual responsibility,” among others.
“We can always depend on where he will stand,” she added.
Cuccinelli said the conservative-rich Shenandoah Valley is an important target for his campaign.
“We need to do well in the Valley, no question about it,” he said. “You’ll be seeing me here a lot.”
He brought up several issues that will be a part of his platform: namely, economic growth and education.
“We need to shift Virginia into [an] even higher gear [of] economic growth,” he said, touting pro-growth tax reform and lowering regulatory burdens on businesses as ways to do that.
“America’s going to be watching Virginia, just like it was in 2009,” he said. “[And] Virginia, like we did in 2009, will start to lead America.”
Luis Padilla, a Honduras native who now lives in Broadway, says he hopes the local Hispanic population will listen more to the Republican ticket’s views on economic and social issues, instead of focusing so much on immigration issues.
Because of the influence of the Catholic Church, which many local Latinos are members of, Hispanics have conservative views on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, he said, adding that they’d also benefit from more conservative, pro-business legislation.
“[But] the Spanish community, they don’t listen to these issues,” Padilla said. “They want to talk about immigration. It’s hard for me to break into that community.”