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Va. governor won't say whether Cuccinelli should step down to campaign

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jan 31, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (Legal Newsline) -- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will not take a stance on whether Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli should step down as the state's top lawyer to campaign for governor.

McDonnell, a Republican like Cuccinelli, was asked about the topic during his monthly Ask the Governor show on WTOP Tuesday.

McDonnell, himself, resigned as attorney general in February 2009 to campaign full-time for governor. He took office in 2010.

Other state attorneys general have done the same in recent years, including Jim Gilmore, Mark Earley and Jerry Kilgore.

When asked whether Cuccinelli should step down to avoid any conflicts of interests, the governor said it depends on the candidate.

"The president of the United States just ran for re-election -- campaigning full-time," he told listeners, noting that it "isn't easy" but it "can be done."

"I just didn't think it was the best for me, my campaign or the office in 2009. If the attorney general thinks he can do both jobs, more power to him."

The Washington Post is among those who have called for Cuccinelli to resign.

In an editorial published soon after he announced his gubernatorial run in late 2011, the Post called for the attorney general to step down immediately.

The newspaper said Cuccinelli "already has done a lot to politicize the office he holds."

The conservative attorney general, just months after taking office in January 2010, filed his own lawsuit against President Barack Obama's federal health care law.

The law's mandate requires individuals who do not purchase health insurance to pay a yearly $695 penalty. Cuccinelli argued that the mandate clashed with the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, which says Virginians are not required to purchase health insurance.

The Fourth Circuit ruled in Cuccinelli's case that he did not have standing to challenge the law on behalf of the state of Virginia because the State wouldn't be affected by the mandate. Only individual Virginians would be, the court said in overturning a district judge's ruling.

In its highly-anticipated ruling in June, the U.S. Supreme Court said the controversial provision is a constitutional tax.

In insisting that he stay on as the state's top lawyer, Cuccinelli is "bucking more than 60 years of bipartisan Virginia history," the Post argued.

The Post noted that since the 1940s, 10 of the state's 11 elected attorneys general have made a run for the Governor's Office, and nine have resigned to pursue the post.

"Mr. Cuccinelli will inevitably further politicize his office, adding a partisan cast to every significant move it makes," the newspaper wrote.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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