Shannon accuses Cuccinelli of 'states' rights' stance
Stephen C. Shannon, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, accused Republican rival Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II today of planning to fight the federal government in a way reminiscent of the state's opposition to civil rights legislation in the past.
At a debate in Richmond, Shannon said Virginians who opposed federal law supported slavery, shut down schools instead of integrating them, prevented inter-racial marriage and sterilized the mentally retarded.
"Our history in Virginia of states' rights is not a flattering picture,'' Shannon said. "When he's talking about states' rights, you have to understand the mistakes we have made in the past."
Cuccinelli called Shannon a "race baiter" and later told reporters that his opponent took his allegations too far.
"That is truly desperate and over the line,'' he said. "He was just literally trying to throw a grenade in and, frankly, it's terribly inappropriate."
Cuccinelli, a self-described conservative, supports limited government and sometimes wears a pin with the revolutionary era saying "Don't Tread on Me," an image seen at this year's "tea party" protests. He said he has never claimed to be a "states' rights attorney general" or someone who would sue the federal government.
Shannon and Cuccinelli, both legislators from Fairfax County, met for their fourth and final debate Thursday. The one-hour long appearance took a negative tone from the start with both men lodging attack after attack in front of nearly 300 lawyers.
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudsonm who moderated the debate for the Richmond Bar Association, asked Shannon and Cuccinelli about their priorities, legislative records and suggested changes to the attorney general's office. No matter the question, the two returned to their standard attacks.
Shannon accused Cuccinelli of being a "cultural crusader" with a "personal political agenda" who would only enforce those laws he agreed with. Cuccinelli accused Shannon of being a "back bencher" in the General Assembly.
Cuccinelli said Shannon failed to understand the legal ramifications of a U.S. Supreme Court decision this year that required live testimony to introduce scientific reports in criminal trials -- and jeopardized thousands of DUI and drug cases. Cuccinelli immediately called for a special legislative session to revise state law, but Shannon said that was "political stunt" and would be to costly. Ultimately, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) called a special session.
Shannon said Cuccinelli was not standing up against the "stain of corruption" brought by Del. Phil Hamilton (R-Newport News), who is under federal investigation for negotiating a job offer with Old Dominion University before securing state money for the school. Cuccinelli is the only statewide candidate of either party that has not called for Hamilton's resignation.
Shannon called himself a pro-business law-and-order centrist who, unlike his opponent, will work across party lines. "He is not a bipartisan legislator,'' Shannon said. "He fights with members of his own party."
Cuccinelli relished the description of himself. "It is true in the past that I have fought with people in my own party whenever they are wrong and I fought with Democrats too,'' he said. "And I think the people of Virginia ought to get a fighter for attorney general."
The attorney general manages an office of about 200 lawyers who provide legal advice to the state agencies, field consumer complaints and defends the state in lawsuits and criminal appeals.
October 22, 2009; 6:44 PM ET
Categories: 2009 Attorney General's Race , Anita Kumar , Election 2009 , Ken Cuccinelli , Steve Shannon
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