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Cuccinelli and Shannon Go At It

Amy Gardner

A contender for Best Debate of the Year wrapped up on WTOP radio, where Mark Plotkin moments ago finished moderating a slugfest between Republican state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic state Del. Steve Shannon, the two candidates for Virginia attorney general.

Cuccinelli came out of the starting blocks by hammering Shannon during his opening remarks for agreeing to only two debates. Ahem ... one wonders how much this matters to listeners, but we're grateful for the feisty and entertaining tone that the Republican's opening remarks set.

Shannon went after Cuccinelli for his "strict constructionist" philosophy of interpreting the Constitution and suggested that Cuccinelli would not uphold laws pertaining to abortion rights because he doesn't believe that Roe v. Wade is constitutional. Cuccinelli said that while it's true he would not defend unconstitutional laws, it wouldn't apply in cases where courts have already weighed in. Cuccinelli continued:

"You mean you would defend an unconstitutional law?" he asked. "...If a law isn't constitutional, your job isn't to violate what you believe is constitutional after a thorough review of the subject."

Host Mark Plotkin didn't have to do very much to keep the conversation going; at one point Plotkin said: "This has been such a precedent shattering event where the candidates say enough ugly things about each other that I don't even have to question them!"

Other points of interest:

*Both candidates claimed to be the better-prepared lawyer to deal with public safety matters. Cuccinelli has served seven years on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. "I have been involved in every change in our criminal justice system of the last seven years."

Shannon started Virginia' AMBER Alert program to quickly find missing or abducted children, and he was an assistant prosecutor in Fairfax County for two years, where he prosecuted a number of violent crimes involving children. "Those cases are very powerful for any prosecutor," he said. "I think about those kids a lot in the context of why I'm running for Virginia attorney general."

*Shannon noted that he has received two endorsements from organizations that are backing Republican gubernatorial contender Bob McDonnell: the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Should we expect to see Shannon-McDonnell bumper stickers soon? Cuccinelli said he is the better pro-business candidate because he will uphold Virginia's right to work laws and because Shannon has received bunches of campaign donations from unions.

*Cuccinelli accused Shannon of not understanding the Melendez-Diaz v. Massachussetts Supreme Court decision in June, which had the potential to wreak havoc on the state's criminal justice system by requiring technicians to testify when laboratory evidence is used in court. Cuccinelli led efforts to fix Virginia law during a special session this summer. Shannon denied it.

*Shannon accused Cuccinelli of denying evidence of climate change. Cuccinelli did not deny it.

*When asked who in the opposite party supports them, Shannon named former Republican state Del. Jim Dillard. Cuccinelli named Democratic Sen. Benjamin Lambert. Is that true? The Shannon campaign just put out a statement saying it's not.

*Both candidates pledged not to resign in the spring of 2013 to run for governor; they would serve the entirety of their four-year term if elected.

By Amy Gardner  |  October 2, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Attorney General's Race , Amy Gardner , Election 2009  
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Wait, I am confused..."Shannon accused Cuccinelli of denying evidence of climate change. Cuccinelli did not deny it."

Did Cuccinelli not deny the existence of climate change? Or not deny the that he denied the existence of climate change?

Posted by: ChiliHead | October 2, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse


Cuccinelli denied the existence of climate change, said that it has been cooler in recent years, said that he was an engineer before becoming a lawyer and "understood" mathematical analysis, etc.

It was the last question, which Shannon got to directly ask Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli's answer(s) to this were among the funniest opines that I have heard in years. I was laughing at the end.

Cuccinelli was pressing hard throughout the debate, but in the end I felt that Shannon won hands down with his experiences as a prosecutor and his stance on public safety and upholding the This contrasted Cuccinelli's self-promoting political issues and self-admitting selective enforcement of laws that he self-deems as not constitutional.

The safe choice is clearly Shannon. I cannot believe that Cuccinelli is running for AG. Surreal.

Posted by: HumbleGovWorker | October 2, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for this excellent post!

It is good to see a little more attention on this race. It's also very refreshing to see a summary of the statements made pertaining to issues, instead of who's ad is out, how much money someone raised, or rumors about who might be endorsing whom....


Posted by: DouginMountVernon | October 2, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Wow. C-team Post reporters sure are sloppy. Cuccinelli denied the existence of man-made global warming, not "climate change." Which puts him on the side of more climatologists and atmospheric scientists than I care to count. Shannon, on the other hand, is squarely on the side of Al Gore and Leo Dicaprio, and environmental extremists who claim the Earth is going to fry tomorrow unless the U.S. government gives them billions of dollars...stat!

Posted by: jpknig | October 2, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse


The Post said that Cuccinelli did not deny Shannon's claim. That is 100% true. He didn't. You can't use semantics after the fact to deny what really happened....hilarious.

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | October 2, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Coochie Coo is running for AG because in the next senatorial election; when he has a strong candidate running against him, he will get slaughtered. He's running for AG because he can't fool his district any longer, so he's trying to fool Virginia. Let's see if Virginia is fooled. I hope not.

Posted by: Willis3 | October 3, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

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