Ken Cuccinelli: The Next Tea Party Candidate?

The Washington Post profiles Virginia's headline-making attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, whose controversial stands have made him a Tea Party hero. In his first four months in office, Cuccinelli challenged the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, told public universities that they couldn't ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and filed a suit claiming the national health care reform law was unconstitutional. 

But Cuccinelli has some surprises up his sleeve, including a long-term commitment to fighting sexual assault and a flippant disregard for Virginia's Republican establishment: 

In the halls of Richmond, the freshman senator, at 34, looked as young as some of the aides and preferred springing up the stairs to waiting for the elevator. He was a little too eager, out of step with the clubby culture of Richmond.

He had won his first race, to represent southwestern Fairfax County, in 2002, the way he always would, underfunded and underestimated. He took positions that were less nuanced and more conservative than his rivals' and summoned a cadre of true-believing volunteers.

Republican Warren Barry, who had resigned the seat Cuccinelli filled, was appalled: "The GOP picked someone whose thinking is so ancient he would be an embarrassment to Northern Virginia."

So, too, were the Republican Brahmins who ran the state senate, who thought some of his early legislative proposals embodied an anti-tax extremism that was not then acceptable in Virginia. "Everyone lamented he wasn't channeled in the right direction," says John H. Chichester, the retired GOP chairman of the finance committee.

Yet to a small but growing core of fiscal and cultural conservatives, Cuccinelli was the new hero.

Now that this core of conservatives has grown into a nationwide movement, Cuccinelli's national political prospects are worth watching.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.

Presented by

Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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