November 4, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Virginia GOP candidates’ LGBT records attacked on final campaign day
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President Obama campaigns for Terry McAuliffe in Arlington, Va., on Nov. 3, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

ANNANDALE, Va.—Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Monday again attacked Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and his Republican ticket mates’ opposition to LGBT rights during the final full day of campaigning in the commonwealth’s statewide campaigns.

“Their Tea Party ticket has demonized gay Virginians,” McAuliffe said during a rally in campaign volunteer Alex Rodriguez’s backyard in Annandale. “Our mainstream ticket believes that Virginia should be open and welcoming for all.”

Vice President Biden joined McAuliffe in Annandale alongside state Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk), who is running against E.W. Jackson in the lieutenant gubernatorial race, and state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun), who will face state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) on Election Day to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general. Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Democratic Party of Virginia Chair Charniele Herring also attended the rally.

President Obama and “Scandal” actress Kerry Washington on Sunday joined McAuliffe at a campaign rally that took place at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington.

“These guys are the absolute antithesis of change and progress,” Biden said as he criticized Cuccinelli, Jackson and Obenshain. “Everything they talk about without exaggeration is about turning back what the rest of the country and the world thinks is progress. It’s hard to fathom this state being led by a man who rejects all that this new thinking stands for.”

A poll that Quinnipiac University released on Monday shows McAuliffe ahead of Cuccinelli by a 46-40 percent margin. Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis, who backs marriage rights for same-sex couples like the former DNC chair and his two Democratic ticket mates, received eight percent.

A Washington Post/Abt SRBI survey unveiled last week showed Northam ahead of Jackson by a 52-39 percent margin. Herring was ahead of Obenshain by a 49-46 percent margin.

More than half of likely Virginia voters who responded to the Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll said they feel Cuccinelli’s views on most issues are too conservative. Forty-six percent of respondents who took part in a Quinnipiac University survey conducted early last month had the same opinion of the current attorney general.

Jackson: GOP candidates have “been slandered”

Virginia Democrats and LGBT rights advocates have repeatedly criticized Cuccinelli and the commonwealth’s statewide Republican ticket over their opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples and other gay-specific measures.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month denied Cuccinelli’s request to appeal a lower court ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

The Republican attorney general in 2010 recommended Virginia colleges and universities remove LGBT-specific provisions from their non-discrimination policies. Cuccinelli also defended the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that bans nuptials for gays and lesbians during a Sept. 25 debate against McAuliffe in McLean.

Jackson, who is a minister in Chesapeake, has faced scathing criticism from LGBT activists and their supporters over his comparison of gay men to pedophiles. He has also previously described them as “very sick people.”

Obenshain sponsored a bill that Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law earlier this year that bans public universities from denying recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate in their membership based on sexual orientation and other unprotected categories under federal law. Obenshain also opposed a measure a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee in February tabled that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

A group of gay rights advocates on Saturday heckled Cuccinelli during an event at his Fairfax campaign office at which former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich and Republican Party of Virginia Chair Pat Mullins spoke. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus joined the attorney general on the campaign trail earlier in the day.

Cuccinelli and his ticket mates on Monday reiterated their opposition to the Affordable Care Act during campaign rallies in Warrenton and Culpeper at which U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mullins also spoke. Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul was to have joined Cuccinelli at a Richmond event later on Monday.

The GOP candidates did not discuss their positions against marriage rights for same-sex and other LGBT-specific issues during their stump speeches in Warrenton and Culpeper.

“Tomorrow in Virginia is a referendum on Obamacare,” Cuccinelli said during the Warrenton rally, noting he is the first state attorney general in the country to challenge the law after Obama signed it in 2010. “Terry McAuliffe wants to expand Obamacare even farther, and I do not.”

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Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial candidate E.W. Jackson speaks in Culpeper, Va., on Nov. 4, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Jackson on Monday once again criticized those whom he claims have misrepresented his and his ticket mates’ comments.

“The three candidates that stand before you today have been lied on, have been slandered,” he said during the Culpeper rally. “Things we’ve said have been misinterpreted and twisted and contorted and made absolutely unrecognizable.”

Cuccinelli is the “perfect candidate for the 1950s”

Theresa Speake, co-chair of the Nuestro Cuccinelli Committee, which advises the attorney general’s campaign on Latino-specific issues, praised the GOP gubernatorial hopeful as she opened the Warrenton rally.

“Ken represents everything that we like: That’s integrity, family, faith,” she said.

Connolly told the Washington Blade before McAuliffe appeared with Biden in Annandale that voters with whom he has spoken said they remain concerned over Cuccinelli’s position on same-sex marriage and other LGBT-specific issues.

“Ken is the perfect candidate for the 1950s,” Connolly said.

Board members of Hampton Roads Business Outreach, which is Virginia’s only LGBT chamber of commerce, with whom the Blade spoke during their retreat in Norfolk on Saturday echoed Connolly.

“[Cuccinelli’s] too overly concerned about women,” Stacie Walls-Beegle, executive director of Access AIDS care, a local HIV/AIDS service organization, said. “He clearly has issues.”

Hampton Roads Business Outreach President Don King told the Blade he feels Cuccinelli’s social agenda is also “short-changing his focus on jobs.”

“We are losing large corporations to Maryland and Delaware and Washington, D.C., because of his social agenda,” he said. “He’s missing the boat as far as equal rights are concerned for workers in this state.”

Walls-Beegle stressed she wishes McAuliffe was a “stronger” candidate, but added “he’s not Ken Cuccinelli” and that’s “good enough” for her.

“At this time that’s the only choice we’ve got,” Jack Peirson, who sits on Hampton Roads Business Outreach’s Membership Committee, told the Blade. “[McAuliffe’s] not persecuting me, so I’m willing to stand behind him.”

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From left: Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudon) who is running for attorney general in Fairfax, Va., on Nov. 2, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Read)

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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