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Old 06-13-2009, 07:17 AM
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Cuccinelli Sticks to His Guns in Statewide Race

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 12, 2009

Gun rights advocates gathered outside the Virginia state Capitol for a rally in January, some of them wearing their weapons tucked beneath their clothes. Among the featured speakers was Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II, one of the most conservative members of the state legislature and a fixture in gun rights circles.

Tall and lean, dressed in a black overcoat and buffered against the wind by an indigo scarf, he noted that his opposition to efforts to "roll back our right to protect ourselves" is not shared by many of his Northern Virginia constituents.

"I have a district that votes four-to-one for gun control," he told the crowd in a speech that was circulated on YouTube. "But I know defending the Second Amendment is the right thing to do. And so I've led the charge year in and year out to do just that."

That incongruity has been a hallmark of Cuccinelli's seven years as a GOP lawmaker from Fairfax County, where by his own admission, conservatives of his stripe are an "endangered species." The unusual blend of politics and geography will come into sharp focus, in ways favorable and not, when he runs statewide this year as the Republican candidate for attorney general.

Critics and fans of Cuccinelli, 40, say he is a shrewd and hardworking campaigner with a record of winning in enemy territory and a loyal following among home-schoolers, antiabortion activists and others in the conservative wing of the party. That base helped push Cuccinelli over the top at the recent Republican convention, where he secured the nomination from among three competitors.

His nomination has buoyed some Democrats who believe that his views are extreme and will benefit their candidates, particularly Del. Stephen C. Shannon, their nominee for attorney general. They hope Cuccinelli will drag down the entire GOP ticket, including Robert F. McDonnell, who has sought a more centrist path to the governor's mansion.

Among the more controversial legislation Cuccinelli has introduced is a bill that would have cut off state funding for Planned Parenthood. That same session, he proposed a law that would have allowed employers to fire workers for fail