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Cuccinelli defends AG office hiring

Rosalind Helderman

Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli this morning responded directly to criticisms from advocate advocate Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, who was Virginia's first female chief deputy attorney general, complaining that Cuccinelli has appointed fewer women to management positions than any other AG in recent memory. (Cuccinelli's office will be the first since 1982 that does not have a woman serving as a deputy attorney general.)

"Claire's ability to run her mouth helped get us votes," Cuccinelli said of Gastanaga, who was long been a political opponent of Cuccinelli. For instance, Gastanaga ran the unsuccessful campaign that urged voters to reject the amendment to Virginia's constitution banning gay marriage. "She scared the bejeesus out of enough people about what would happen if Steve Shannon were elected attorney general." Shannon was Cuccinelli's Democratic opponent.

Cuccinelli went on to note that he's had women in top leadership positions on his campaigns and that he found many female lawyers based in Northern Virginia whom he talked to about joining the attorney general's office were not interested in relocating to Richmond, as the job would require.


"We cast as wide a net we could in the short time period we had," he said.

"Where we ended up, I'm confident we've got great folks in each of those positions," Cuccinelli continued. "It really shows a major difference between liberals like Claire and me. She cares more about what somebody looks like than whether they'll do a good job. I care more about whether they'll do a good job. As I said earlier, the folks we have will represent every single Virginains in their position. Claire's attitude is quite contrary. Whether people voted for me or not, I'm their attorney general. We come into office with that attitude, and every person we hired in each position has that attitude."

Finally, he said he enters an office "well populated with talented females, attorneys and others, in significant numbers. We're going to be in a good office with a great environment with folks from every part of Virginia and every walk of life, in one part of the office or another."

You knew this was coming: Gastanaga has now responded to Cuccinelli's remarks. "It's been a long time in the legal profession since anyone could say with authority that they couldn't find any women who were as qualified or more qualified than the people they hired...My record is absolutely one where we always hired the best and brightest people. And we managed to hire 50 percent women."

"Looks mean nothing to me--I'm interested in quality too," she said. And then added: "It is interesting that the new attorney general thought the way to respond to a substantive concern was to seek to disparage me personally."



By Rosalind Helderman  |  January 12, 2010; 2:58 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

Let this be a very hard lesson to Virginia Democrats who couldn't be bothered to vote in an "off year" election. We are back to the Virginia of the "good old boys." One step forward and two steps back. I find the AG's remarks baseless, offensive and a clear indication of what we can expect for 4 more years.

Intelligent people don't need to personally attack those who call their decisions into question. This is a democracy and that's how it works. I hope in future the Washington Post won't flatter Cooch's ego by reprinting them.

Posted by: csread | January 12, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

The critique was over whether Cooch hired women. Hiring practices are public record and subject to public scrutiny. It's a reasonable inquiry.

Cooch's responded with a personal ad hominem attack on the person raising the question, Claire Gastanaga. He never actually responded to the question asked--which concerned the proportion of women he hired NOT that his predecessors hired.

Wow. What a class act.

I wonder if Cooch is willing to defend the interests of the all Commonwealth or only those of the voters who supported him. Yeah, yeah, Cooch will take an oath next weekend to all citizens. Piffle, m'dears! Why that's just a mundane technicality...

Personally, I'd love it if Gastanaga could work up a class action against Cooch for violation of equal opportunity laws.

In that case, Cooch would have to respond to Federal statute (which he's already indicated that he doesn't believe have any domain over the Commonwealth). If this precedent is prologue, his main defense would be based on personal attacks on Gastanaga and not evidence of the case.

AG or not--I don't know of any Federal judge that would look favorably on that.

Posted by: ViennaBelle | January 12, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

If we can't judge lawyers by their genitals, how are we to judge them?

Posted by: member8 | January 12, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

@member8 by their zeal to regulate other people's genitals, of course. Or so I gather from Cooch swiftly hiring the draftsman of our proud "marriage" amendment...

Posted by: dgjudy2k | January 13, 2010 3:31 AM | Report abuse

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