Cuccinelli denies plans for Senate run

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Local,Virginia
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has no plans to run against Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in 2014 and is instead keeping his political options open, an aide said Tuesday, dismissing media reports that a Cuccinelli-Warner matchup was in the works.

Cuccinelli told the Washington Post last week that he would consider a race against Warner, whom he criticized for following the lead of liberal national Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

But a top Cuccinelli aide told The Washington Examiner that Virginia's outspoken attorney general has made no definitive plans to run for any office.

"We haven't ruled out anything. He's not actively considering a run for any particular office at the moment," political director Noah Wall said. "Ken is operating under the assumption that he will run for reelection [in 2013]. He hasn't ruled out any option besides running for president, which he has no desire to do."

Speculation that Cuccinelli will seek higher office began almost immediately after he assumed his current job last year. Unlike any of his predecessors, Cuccinelli transformed the attorney general's office into an activist operation tackling a variety of conservative causes, including challenging gay rights and climate change. He won a nationwide following when he sued the Obama administration to kill off the president's health care reforms. The case now rests with a federal appeals court.

Warner, a former governor, has not yet confirmed whether he would run for reelection in 2014. If he did square off against Cuccinelli, observers say, he would have the clear advantage.

"It would be a long shot, no doubt, for Cuccinelli. Mark Warner would have not only the traditional advantages of incumbency, but barring unforeseen change, he retains enormously high public approval ratings," said Mark Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University. "I think the last Virginians who had such universal approval would be named Madison, Jefferson or Washington."

Rozell said he thought Cuccinelli would be a better pick for governor.

"Despite controversy swirling around him for this or that position he has taken and the lawsuits, I think we would be strongly supported if he were the Republican nominee for governor," he said.

Warner's office did not return calls for comment.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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