He came within roughly two points of winning the Governor’s election, but Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will soon leave public service for the first time in 11 years. While critics might disagree, he says he sought to defend state laws, fight for public safety and consumers, and push back against government overreach.
In this final part of our retrospective series, a look at some of the initiatives that Cuccinelli believes will impact the Commonwealth long after he leaves office.
Cuccinelli says voter approval of limits to eminent domain was significant.
“I finally after eight years got to see one of the most important things I’ve worked on as both a legislator and Attorney General-that being the protection of property rights put in the Constitution by the people of Virginia.”
A major focus was public safety. The Attorney General created programs to deter youth from criminal gangs, while beefing up state efforts to crack down on human trafficking. He also stepped up some prosecutions.
“We have doubled the effort fighting child predators on the Internet and child pornographers-and then some, helping local law enforcement do it.”
That boosted the conviction rate by 77 percent. During his term, Medicaid fraud investigations led to record-setting fines and penalties. He also advanced a new law and obtained a settlement to limit electric utility rate hikes.
"Legislation passed last session that between now and 2025 will keep Virginians’ electric bills down by about a billion dollars overall.”
Cuccinelli also pressed for mental health care reforms and pushed to exonerate four innocent men.
“That’s something that I broke with my party on 10 years ago in the legislature to support and help get into law. And then, ironically, many years later as Attorney General, I went into court and argued to try and get someone wrongfully convicted of a felony exonerated, even without DNA.”
He remains a strong advocate of federalism and, in defense of state law, was the first Attorney General to sue over the federal healthcare individual mandate. The Supreme Court agreed with him that Congress cannot order citizens to buy a product, but upheld the law as a tax.
“We’re seeing live with some of the extraordinary overreaching-illegal overreaching-by the federal government and the president, the need for states to step up and push back and say, ‘You don’t have the authority to do this.’”
The Attorney General lost a court fight to obtain a UVA scientist’s records, but won a lawsuit against the EPA over stormwater runoff.
“Both the Democrat Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County and I agreed that they were well beyond their legal authority. And I argued that case in the Eastern District, and it was an absolute hammer blow of an opinion from the judge against the EPA.”
Cuccinelli was outspent in the Governor’s race by $14 million-which he believes buried his record and policy ideas. Nor did he have the funds to rebut what he says were dishonest ads.
“People bought it. And a lot of it was just recycled from 2012. I’m not even sure they changed the mailers. They just took Mitt Romney’s name out and put mine in.”
He still warns against amassing power in a central government.
“The less the better. It should go the other way-should only have centrally located what must be, can’t be, done any other way, and should be done by government. One of the questions that doesn’t get asked often enough when a bill comes through is: ‘SHOULD we be doing this?’ There’s: ‘Well, should we do it this way, or should we do it as much?’ How about: ‘Should we be doing it at all?’ Government is overextended. Frankly, it’s suffocating the liberty that has made America a unique and extraordinary nation.”
Cuccinelli says a consolation in his loss is that he likes going home. For now, he’ll practice law. He has no desire to run for office in the next several years, but may re-evaluate that in the future.