HARRISONBURG — Longtime Republican Del. Clinton Miller’s defection from the GOP has been a gradual one, starting during President George W. Bush’s tenure, when Miller felt a close-minded attitude was taking over.
Since 2006, when he retired from the State Corporation Commission — a position that required him to stay out of politics — the Woodstock resident has kept a rather low profile, placing yard signs for candidates, if making a public political statement at all.
But Miller, 74, came out swinging Friday in Harrisonburg, joining a Democratic Party of Virginia RV that’s touring the state in support of Terry McAuliffe for governor and questioning the ethics of McAuliffe’s Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s current attorney general.
“The [Republican] Party really, from its ideology, seems to say, ‘We don’t need moderates,’” he said. “[They] need what they consider ‘true believers’ that would apply a narrow [philosophy]. ... Even at my old age, I think people just need to get out and try to reorient this country. I’m just trying to do my small part.”
Miller served in the House of Delegates from 1973 to 1995, representing Harrisonburg and parts of Rockingham County. He lost the Republican nomination for governor to George Allen in 1993.
Harrisonburg Councilman Richard Baugh, a Democrat, joined Miller for Friday’s event. Baugh focused on the attorney general’s role in a dispute over royalties between Southwest Virginia landowners and gas companies.
Cuccinelli received $100,000 from one of the companies while one of his assistants provided “inappropriate” legal advice to the company in a lawsuit filed by landowners, a report released this week by Inspector General Michael F.A. Morehart said.
“He chose to continue to put the financial interests of this out-of-state company first,” Baugh said. “It’s past time for Cuccinelli to return the $100,000 and start putting Virginians first.”
The inspector general found that Cuccinelli’s office did not give the assistant instructions to provide support or intervene, and the office only became aware of emails between the assistant and company after the landowners attorneys filed a motion for access to them in federal court.
In a statement this week, Brian Gottstein, the spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the inspector general’s findings validate Cuccinelli’s position he did nothing improper.
“The innuendo and outright accusations by some that the attorney general was working against landowners have been proven to be patently false,” Gottstein said. “[His] involvement in these cases has always been to protect the rights of Southwest Virginia property owners by defending in court the law that ensures they get paid royalties on the methane taken from the land.”
While not calling himself a Democrat now, Miller is still not optimistic that Cuccinelli has Virginians’ interests in mind. He said the attorney general has an “uncompromising” political platform — as an “anti-tax crusader” — similar to the Republicans in Congress who Miller blames for the “artificial crisis” that led to the recent partial shutdown of the federal government.
“It’s Cuccinelli’s mates in Washington that have done this,” Miller said. “He shares this same narrow philosophy. … You’ve got to work together. You’ve got to compromise.”
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