POLITICS

Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli opens national conservative conference

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Politics,Local,DC,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Virginia Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli kicked off the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday by taking shots at his Democratic opponent and laying out the pillars of his campaign.

Cuccinelli spent much of his 18 minutes introducing himself and listing his accomplishments for a sleepy and sparsely filled CPAC auditorium at National Harbor. He noted his high-profile battles with the Environmental Protection Agency and his lawsuit against President Obama's health care reforms, the first in the country.

But with a statewide election looming, Cuccinelli steered clear of the overly controversial remarks for which he is well-known. Instead, the Republican unleashed a five-point agenda for a four-year term -- reform the tax code, lessen regulations on businesses, shrink the size of government, improve education and give voice to the vulnerable -- centered on conservative principles but free of the kinds of social issues he championed as attorney general.

"When you become a candidate for public office you never quite get used to what the pundits and political prognosticators say at you or the barbs your opponents toss your way. I expect in the next few months I'm going to see a few more of those," Cuccinelli said. "But the one thing even my staunchest opponents admit is I'm a straight shooter and that I'm a man of my word. And when this race is over they'll still be able to say that."

In a room full of conservatives from across the country, Cuccinelli stuck largely to his own race in Virginia during his remarks. He called Democrat Terry McAuliffe a big-government liberal and knocked the former Democratic National Committee chairman for his role in allowing deep-pocketed donors to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House during the Clinton administration.

"We want to try to protect the LaFayette Bedroom in Virginia from the same fate," Cuccinelli joked.

Cuccinelli was the first speaker of the three-day conservative confab that kicked off Thursday at Prince George County's National Harbor.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the only other Republican gubernatorial candidate running this year, was left off the program, meaning Cuccinelli is the biggest name at the conference who actually has an election this year.

Former Sens. Marco Rubio, of Florida, and Rand Paul, of Kentucky, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are also scheduled to speak Thursday.

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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