By Joe Beck
WINCHESTER -- Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II urged Frederick County Republicans on Saturday to work hard for him as he attempts to close the gap in the governor's race with Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
"We have every opportunity to win this race," Cuccinelli told party members gathered for the $25 a person Rally in the Valley dinner. "While being outspent in September two to one on television, we have cut their gap in half. We are now inside the margin in polling."
Three polls released on Friday -- from the University of Mary Washington, Hampton University and Emerson College in Boston -- showed McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by five to seven points. Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor, registered 8 to 11 percent support in the three polls, all of which were conducted before the federal government shutdown.
Cuccinelli spent much of his speech attacking McAuliffe on a variety of issues, especially economic development.
McAuliffe, Cuccinelli said, fell short in the areas of taxes and energy costs, all of which have been identified as key areas for promoting business growth and job creation. Cuccinelli has promised his ideas for economic development will add 58,000 jobs to the state's economy.
"His plan is to say the word "jobs" between now and November and hope everybody falls for it," Cuccinelli said of McAuliffe.
"I'm the only candidate who has put a plan on the table that an economist can look at and say this is how many jobs you can expect if this plan is implemented," Cuccinelli added.
Cuccinelli criticized McAuliffe's support for new regulations from the Obama administration intended to stop the construction of coal-burning power plants unless they include unproven technology to cut carbon emissions. Much of the energy in the economically depressed southwestern part of the state comes from Appalachian coal, Cuccinelli said.
"The war on coal is a war on the poor, and we can't have a governor in Virginia who won't fight for those folks," Cuccinelli said.
Cuccinelli sought to answer accusations from Planned Parenthood that he harbors ambitions to restrict access to birth control, an issue that could hurt him with women voters who have leaned heavily toward McAuliffe in polls. But Cuccinelli also reaffirmed his opposition to abortion, which he has made a prominent part of his record as attorney general and state senator.
"As governor, we're not going to do anything to regulate contraception," Cuccinelli said, adding that he is a supporter of "life" and will remain so as governor.
Cuccinelli made some brief references to the federal government shutdown and connected it to McAuliffe's earlier stance that he would refuse to sign a budget that did not include an expansion of Medicaid, the medical assistance program for the poor. Refusal to sign the budget would lead to the closing of state government, Cuccinelli said.
"He said that for four months until the shutdown on the other side of the river," Cuccinelli said of McAuliffe. "Now he can't back peddle fast enough."
Cuccinelli said his disagreements with Democrats in Richmond are well known, "but I'm never going to slam the door on them. They're elected, too. We don't have to leave the room agreeing, but by golly, we need to be talking."
E.W. Jackson, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, was also scheduled to speak, but did not appear. Instead, he sent his field director, Cole Tower, to deliver some remarks.
Tower ticked off some of the issues Jackson is running on.
"Here is your choice," Tower said. "How much does the Second Amendment, how much do lower taxes, prayer in school, traditional marriage, stopping Obamacare and how much does laying a good foundation for your children and grandchildren in the future to live, how much does that mean to you?"
Suzanne Obenshain spoke on behalf of her husband, state Sen. Mark Obenshain, the GOP's candidate for attorney general.
She urged the audience to talk to their neighbors about her husband's commitment to defending the Constitution, Virginia's right-to-work law and his endorsements from 116 commonwealth's attorneys and sheriffs across the state.
The party sold an estimated 283 to 310 tickets for the dinner. Tricia Pearce, a party member who was taking tickets at the door, estimated attendance at about 180.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org