Herring asks Cuccinelli to recuse himself, office from role in 2013 elections

Democrat vs. Republican on whiteToday Democratic Party of Virginia Chair Delegate Charniele Herring sent a letter to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli asking him to recuse himself and his office from any matters related to the Virginia State Board of Elections due to the conflict of interest created by his being a candidate for governor.

The Attorney General’s office is responsible for offering legal counsel to the State Board of Elections, meaning that Cuccinelli is presently both a candidate for Governor and an official responsible for offering legal advice to the state organization administering the election.

It is common practice for Virginia Attorneys General who run for governor to resign their offices due to conflicts like these, but so far Cuccinelli has refused to follow that precedent.

The full text of Herring’s letter urging Cuccinelli to recuse himself and his office due to his conflict of interest is below:


August 28, 2013

The Hon. Charniele Herring

Democratic Party of Virginia

1710 E. Franklin St.

Richmond, VA 23223


Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

Office of the Attorney General

900 E. Broad St.

Richmond, VA 23219


Dear Attorney General Cuccinelli,

Virginia has a long-standing tradition that if the Attorney General runs for Governor they resign from office to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Since you have made the decision to remain in office, new conflicts between your role as Attorney General and a candidate for Governor have arisen.  Specifically, the Office of the Attorney General currently serves as legal counsel for the State Board of Elections despite your presence on the ballot. I would like to respectfully ask that you recuse yourself and your office from all matters relating to the Board of Elections as long as you remain a candidate on the ballot.

It is unreasonable, and a clear conflict of interest, for you to both appear on the ballot and provide legal counsel to the Board of Elections.  Your office has repeatedly stated that if any controversial issues were to arise, special counsel would be appointed to resolve the conflict.  That isn’t enough and ignores the larger issue at hand.

The current set-up effectively requires the Democratic Party of Virginia to seek legal guidance from the Office of the Attorney General on all matters related to the election.  Similarly, when your campaign asks the Board of Elections for legal guidance, your office is responsible for the content of such guidance.  This arrangement presents a conflict even in the case of non-controversial requests for legal or procedural clarifications.

Rule 1.7 of the Virginia State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits Virginia lawyers from representing a client if the representation presents a concurrent conflict of interest.  Your representation of the Board of Elections presents such a conflict. Moreover, Rule 1.10 prohibits the Office of the Attorney General from representing the SBE because of your conflict of interest.

Thank you for considering our request and I hope you will decide to avoid any more conflicts of interest by immediately recusing yourself and the Office of the Attorney General from all matters relating to the Board of Elections this election.


Charniele Herring

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