Why Ken Cuccinelli Lost the Election in Virginia
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By defeating Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli II in the gubernatorial election Tuesday, Virginia voters rejected one of the most openly-right wing politicians in the country. While he at times attempted to downplay his record, Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe (D) repeatedly hammered the point that Cuccinelli was focused on his own agenda of climate change denial, anti-LGBT discrimination, restrictions on women’s reproductive health, steadfast opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and blocking any gun violence reduction efforts.
Polling in the final days showed that most voters were not just voting for McAuliffe but against Cuccinelli. A libertarian candidate who also hammered Cuccinelli’s social issue positions appeared to win about six or seven percent as well.
While perhaps recognizing that his far-right views were alienating Democrats, independents, and Republicans, Cuccinelli tried to de-emphasize social issues in this campaign — suggesting he would not pursue an agenda of restricting contraception or abortion rights as governor, scrubbing his positions on immigration from his website, and calling any mentions of his own anti-LGBT comments unfounded “ personal attacks.” But he once styled himself a “ beachhead of conservatism” and repeatedly emphasized to voters, “ you’ll always know where I stand.”
As voters discovered where he stood, he went from being the early front-runner to trailing in every poll in the weeks leading up to Election Day. The record they evaluated was:
He fought against all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.
Cuccinelli once boasted that his first campaign won by mobilizing churches on abortion and taxes — while misleading the press into think he was concerned about transportation. His 2002 campaign website laid out Cuccinelli’s abortion views clearly: “Ken believes that human life begins at conception, and that human beings should be respected and protected from conception to natural death,” it said. “Ken would seek to require sonograms to be part of a 24-hour waiting period with an informed consent requirement. Ken opposes abortions that are not for the purpose of saving the mother’s life.” He sought defund Planned Parenthood and embryonic stem cell research.
He pushed for a ban on third trimester abortions — making no exception for serious health risks on the woman — and bullied the state Board of Health to implement “safety” regulations for abortion providers designed to force clinics to close. He has also highlighted his opposition to RU-486 and his support for a “ conscience” law protecting the “right of professionals to refuse to perform an action that is inconsistent with their moral convictions” — such as providing emergency contraception — “without losing their job.” Cuccinelli frequently attacks Planned Parenthood and has suggested that the fact that abortion clinics in Virginia are in urban areas with large African American populations is an example of white racism. His “ ultimate goal,” he has said, is to “make abortion disappear in America.” Instead, Cuccinelli helped fund “crisis” pregnancy centers that lie to women to manipulate their reproductive health choices.
He called a safe sex fair “soft porn” and sought to censor it.
In 2005, Cucinnelli used his position as a state Senator to try to censor a university sexual education event he felt was “pushing a pro-sex agenda and an anything goes agenda.” Cuccinelli, however, was outraged that his alma mater George Mason — a public state university — would host an event he believed “really just designed to push sex and sexual libertine behavior as far, fast and furiously as possibly.” Upset that information about sexuality — other than abstinence only — would be presented to adult college students, he said it was symptomatic of the “moral depravity that has crept across this commonwealth and this country.” The university’s administration emphatically rejected Cuccinelli’s suggestions that they cancel the event and it was repeated in future years.