VA AG Cuccinelli calls for, then backs away from, changes to the law to permit more choices on the GOP primary ballot in March

As just about everyone who’s paying attention to the news knows by now, the field of contenders for the GOP presidential nomination has been narrowed to 2 in the Commonwealth of Virginia as only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have managed to get onto the ballot. Gingrich, Perry, Bachman, Huntsman, Santorum, and everyone else who’s been toying with the idea of running against Barak Obama this November basically just didn’t get it done in putting enough signatures to their applications. Virginia law is quite clear on the matter: get 10,000 validatable signatures from across the state with at least 400 of them being from each congressional district by a certain date. Let’s face the facts before we proceed: Team Romney and Team Paul pulled that off and the others did not. Note, especially, that Team Gingrich and Team Perry tried and failed where the other teams didn’t even make a go at it.

During the 2008 campaigns I was a supporter of Fred Thompson, and proud of it. I’d like to point out to the supporters of Bachman, Huntsman, and the others that Mr. Thompson was loudly ridiculed as being “lazy” and just not motivated enough to run. He got on the ballot, you’ll note. What does that say about those candidates that didn’t?

Virginia law also prohibits write-in candidates on the primary. The candidates on the ballot are your choices, period. Take one of ’em or leave all of ’em, is pretty much how it goes. I don’t like that, personally, but that’s the law. So it was with mixed feelings that I noted VA’s AG Ken Cuccinelli’s announcement that he was going to submit emergency legislation to relax the requirements and open the ballot up a little. I want the ability to cast my ballot for the candidate of my choice, but – hey! – the law was plain and clearly articulated to all parties. It’s not that the candidates who didn’t get on the ballot were blindsided, they just didn’t meet the requirements. Still, I was conflicted enough to hold my peace and see where this went.

Well, where it went was pretty much nowhere. After considering this carefully from all sides, Cuccinelli has backed off and decided to stand down from the matter. In an e-mail to subscibers of his newsletter, the Cuccinelli Compass, the AG explained:

I obviously feel very strongly that Virginia needs to change its ballot access requirements for our statewide elections. However, after working through different scenarios with Republican and Democratic leaders to attempt to make changes in time for the 2012 Presidential election, my concern grows that we cannot find a way to make such changes fair to the Romney and Paul campaigns that qualified even with Virginia’s burdensome system. A further critical factor that I must consider is that changing the rules midstream is inconsistent with respecting and preserving the rule of law – something I am particularly sensitive to as Virginia’s attorney general.

My intentions have never focused on which candidates would be benefited or harmed, rather I have focused on what is best for Virginia’s citizens, as hundreds of thousands of Virginians who should have been able to make their choices among the full field of presidential primary contenders have had their number of choices reduced significantly.

My primary responsibility is to the people of Virginia, and how best to fulfill that responsibility in these particular circumstances has been a very difficult question for me. I believe consistency on the part of public officials is an important attribute. And I believe that Virginians are best served by an attorney general who consistently supports the rule of law. That leads to my conclusion that while I will vigorously support efforts to reduce the hurdles to ballot access in Virginia for all candidates, I will not support efforts to apply such changes to the 2012 Presidential election.

I do not change position on issues of public policy often or lightly.  But when convinced that my position is wrong, I think it necessary to concede as much and adjust accordingly.

After reading this,I have to say I feel this was the correct decision. I might not like the result and wish to have a different choice for the nominee, but the rules are the rules, and I agreed to abide by them. Well done, Mr. Cuccinelli. Now, how about we take a look at fixing this situation for next time?

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4 comments

  1. Why didn’t the Ken Cuccinelli feel this way 24 hours earlier? What changed?

    BTW, Glad to see you back!

  2. Hey there, LL! Thanks, and welcome back here. Why didn’t he feel that way 24 hours earlier? Honestly, I think he felt exactly like I do and that is that this situation is just…. wrong. Rules are rules, yes, but the rules are really putting a bind on Virginians, here.

    Now… just imagine with me for a moment. What happens if Paul decides he can’t get the GOP nomination and goes 3rd party, and Romney were to suddenly implode and drop out? What happens to our primary then?

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