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January 02, 2012

On Virginia AG Cuccinelli's Ballot Rules Reversal

After the outcry of Perry and Gingrich supporters that Virginia's balloting rules are too strict, Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli dove right in by decrying Virginia's election rules and proposing legislation that would add most of the other GOP candidates to the primary ballot.

This is despite the fact that the AG is, technically, not a member of the legislature and therefore not really in a position to change Virginia's laws. Whatever. His announcement was greeted cheerfully by conservatives anxious to have options other than Romney or Paul on the Virginia ballot.

Yesterday, he suddenly reversed course. Buried in the reports on this is the real reason why:

As the state's top lawyer, it fell to Cuccinelli to defend the state's ballot-access laws against a lawsuit filed by Perry. Cuccinelli, who was among the first Virginia officials to denounce the ballot rules as unfair after Perry and Gingrich failed to qualify, insisted he would vigorously defend the very law he was criticizing.

Then on Saturday Cuccinelli announced that he would submit emergency legislation to overturn the law he said he would defend and called on lawmakers to rewrite the rules to make it easier for candidates to make the ballot.

Cuccinelli's opposition sparked concerns from the judge overseeing Perry's lawsuit, who questioned whether taking a position on the rule compromised his office's ability to defend the law in the face of a legal challenge.

Cuccinelli let his political ambitions, and boy howdy is he ambitious, get ahead of his duty as Virginia's attorney general. This is a recurring pattern from Cuccinelli (recall his subpar, but politically flashy first-in-the-nation ObamaCare lawsuit) but somehow it makes him a Tea Party hero.

I took a look at the Perry lawsuit and the talking points the campaign is circulating with it. Guys, I wouldn't get your hopes up. The party rules were clear and they were set in May. They complied with state law and the constitutional challenge is quite a stretch. Maybe Perry will get a sympathetic judge and maybe AG Cuccinelli will decline to appeal a pro-Perry ruling to the appellate courts. But it's definitely an uphill battle.

This was campaign incompetence, pure and simple. The state even provided a checklist that campaigns could use to make sure they didn't overlook any deadlines or requirements. The Perry and Gingrich campaigns couldn't get their game together. As much as I dislike only having Romney and Paul on the ballot here, they did everything right and shouldn't be punished just because the other campaigns didn't.

It's good that Cuccinelli quickly came around. It would be better if he set his ambitions aside and just did his job right in the first place.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 10:17 AM

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