In the attorney general’s race, Virginians have a choice between a low-key fellow partial to brown suits, and a pugnacious culture warrior more apt to need flameproof gear.
Steve Shannon’s style is the better fit for Virginia. His thoughtful approach would preserve the reputation of the state’s law firm as a source of reliable legal advice. Ken Cuccinelli’s antics would be more entertaining, but drama is something best left to TV shows.
Shannon may be unsteady in the political realm, but he isn’t a newcomer to law enforcement. He served as an assistant prosecutor in Fairfax County, specializing in child pornography cases. He and his wife helped create a chapter of Amber Alert, a national network for rescuing abducted children.
As a Democratic delegate, Shannon has been a centrist who gravitated toward bipartisan compromises on budget and transportation issues. That background will lend him a steady hand as he guides the legislature through what promises to be a tumultuous effort to redraw political districts in 2011.
Shannon says he would partner with local law officials to battle computer crimes. He understands the need to enforce clean water and air regulations. He will work to curb predatory lending by subjecting the industry to a 36 percent cap on interest rates.
Cuccinelli’s experience as a court-appointed attorney for the mentally ill made him a valuable participant in efforts to reform state laws after the Virginia Tech massacre. His intellect could be an asset, but he relies instead on inflammatory appeals.
As a Republican state senator, his limited-government philosophy led him to oppose common-sense safety measures and some crime bills. He voted against allowing cities to enforce traffic laws with red-light cameras and even argued against stricter laws for cockfighting.
He reconciles his anti-government record and his desire to be the state’s lawyer by promising to sue the federal government over environmental and union issues.
“The government’s your client, but you’re responsible to the citizens of the commonwealth,” he said. But would he feel an obligation to all Virginians?
He sponsored a bill to waive unemployment compensation costs for companies that fire workers for not speaking English on the job. The measure would have affected only legal workers because illegal immigrants don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.
Cuccinelli’s views on reproductive rights don’t align with those of most Virginians. He favors legislation that would grant legal rights to fetuses at conception. He has sponsored bills requiring strict regulations that would put most abortion clinics out of business. He voted against a bill stating that contraception is not abortion.
He declined to commit to a nondiscrimination policy against gays and lesbians observed by former Attorney General Bob McDonnell: “ My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that. ... They don’t comport with natural law. I happen to think that it represents (to put it politely; I need my thesaurus to be polite) behavior that is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society.”
To put it politely, Cuccinelli’s election would bring embarrassment to Virginia, instability to the state’s law firm and untold harm to the long list of people who don’t fit his personal definition of morality.