WASHINGTON, D.C., June 8, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – When Ken Cuccinelli speaks publicly about his interpretation of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, pro-family and conservative activists tend to stand up and cheer. Cuccinelli is the Republican attorney general of Virginia challenging President Obama’s health-care law, which would subsidize insurance plans that cover abortion services.
Speaking at a political conference last weekend sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, an organized founded by conservative Christian activist Ralph Reed, Cuccinelli mixed wry humor and combative rhetoric with appeals to the Constitution and common sense.
“The federal government can’t order you to buy a product. There’s a reason for that. There’s a good reason for that. The biggest impediment in this case is the dictionary,” Cuccinelli said, drawing many laughs and much clapping from audience members at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. “Is there a more basic definition of liberty than to be left alone?”
Cuccinelli shrugged his shoulders. Which might have been the response of many pro-life and pro-family activists when they read that he was one of the featured speakers at the conference; its roster of speakers included such heavyweights as Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and real-estate mogul Donald Trump.
As recently as two years ago, Cuccinelli was a relative unknown in pro-family political circles. He was a four-term Republican state senator in Virginia and had not run for statewide or federal office. His support for pro-life and pro-family policies earned him the Family Foundation of Virginia’s legislator of the year award in 2008, but he was not a fixture on social conservatives’ speaking circuit.
Now Cuccinelli is viewed among pro-family conservatives as a rising star. “He’s got a bright future,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention. “He’s solidly pro life. He’s telegenic, and that’s important in this day and age. Ask Barack Obama.”
After being elected Virginia’s attorney general in November 2009, Cuccinelli gained national press for his socially conservative interpretations of state laws. On March 4, 2010, one month after Gov. Robert McDonnell, a Republican, issued an executive order which did not include protections for homosexual employees of the Commonwealth, he wrote a letter to the Commonwealth’s colleges and universities informing them that sexual orientation should not be considered a classification subject to its non-discrimination policy.
Cuccinelli gained further renown for his opposition to Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Two days after the ink on the bill was dry, Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit federal government’s power under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which is known as the interstate commerce clause.
Cuccinelli also won plaudits from pro-life advocates for his decision last winter that the state’s abortion clinics could be regulated as strictly as hospitals.
Cuccinelli’s political persona has also earned him national attention. While he is a favorite of Tea Party supporters, he has reached out to social liberals. In a Washington Post profile last July, writer David Montgomery noted that as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Cuccinelli helped found a student group that raised awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.
A lifelong practicing Catholic who attends services with his wife at a parish in northern Virginia, the 42-year-old father of seven children does not shy away from bold statements about his co-religionists.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, Cuccinelli was asked about the support of some Catholics for the new health-insurance law. “Some Catholics want to put people on welfare,” he said plainly. “I want to take them off it.” When he was asked about the support of some Catholic prelates for the health-care law, he defended his opposition to the law this way: “Many bishops have never taken economics courses.”
At the conference, some pro-family activists speculated about Cuccinelli’s political future. One activist said he would be a natural as a Virginia gubernatorial candidate. Whether Cuccinelli could be a viable presidential candidate someday is disputed, however.
Stu Rothenberg, author of the Rothenberg Political Report, said that Cuccinelli’s unapologetic rhetoric and positions “would not make the more business and suburban parts of the (Republican) party entirely comfortable … and he’d be demonized by the Democratic Party and by others as intolerant and extreme.”
For now, Cuccinelli is content to take on, and perhaps take down, the president’s signature legislative achievement.
See other LifeSiteNews reports on the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference:
Pro-life Pawlenty to pro-abortion Obama: ‘Lead the country or get out of the way
Dr. Jim Garlow: Biblical truth and sacrifice are the keys to renewing America
Bill Bennett: America has a ‘man problem’
Ron Paul: breakdown of family values, not gov’t, at heart of legal abortion