Ken Plum: Your attorney general at work

In my round of community meetings several months ago I found that the most-mentioned statewide official in Virginia was Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. As the third position on the ballot of statewide elected officials the position and the person occupying it have in the past received little attention. Few were the number of Virginians over the years who could name the current or more than one past attorney general of the state. I have never before written a column about an attorney general. Much to the chagrin of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who stepped aside to allow Bob McDonnell to run for governor while he ran for lieutenant governor successfully for a second time, he no doubt felt he was in the queue to run for governor in 2013 until Attorney General Cuccinelli eclipsed him in name recognition before he had served less than a year in statewide office.

Having name recognition is one thing, and certainly Cuccinelli has acquired that. Having positive name recognition is a whole other matter. For even those who may disagree with his conservative position on issues there is a begrudging admiration for his willingness to stand up for what he believes in and for his willingness to take on tough issues. He had been in office for just a few months when he took on as a lone state attorney general the Obama Administration’s health care reform plan. Other suits have been brought since, but Cuccinelli’s was first, making its way through federal court to decide if Congress has the power to enact the provisions of law it did with health care reform. And then he took on the University of Virginia by subpoenaing the papers of a scientific researcher that the attorney general was investigating for possible fraud based on the scientist’s research on climate change.

The attorney general is called upon to offer advisory opinions on matters of law. Last week Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli captured the headlines with an opinion requested by a state legislator at the request of the Virginia Civil Defense League that irrespective of Virginia law a citizen may carry a gun into a place of worship. Current law prohibits carrying a firearm into “a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place” with an exception for an individual who has “a good and sufficient reason” to carry such a weapon. Cuccinelli opined that carrying a weapon for self-defense legally constitutes a good and sufficient reason under the law. Churches may as a private property exclude weapons.

The Attorney General is making a name for himself and unfortunately for Virginia at the same time. Many wonder if this is the kind of name we want for our state.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

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