Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli aren't just running for governor of Virginia; they're also providing red meat to fuel virtually every other Republican or Democrat on this fall's ballot.
Instead of sniping at each other, the down-ballot candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general score points with their supporters by tearing into McAuliffe or Cuccinelli on the trail, denouncing the opposing party's candidate as an extreme ideologue out of touch with mainstream Virginians.
Democratic Sen. Mark Herring, a candidate for attorney general, went so far as to call for a federal investigation into Cuccinelli's links to Star Scientific, a Virginia-based supplement-maker in which he's invested. Cuccinelli increased his holdings with Star Scientific and accepted gifts from its CEO even after the company sued the state over $700,000 in back-taxes.
"Accepting gifts from a company that has business before the state raises serious ethical questions and concerns," said Herring, D-Leesburg, who faces former federal prosecutor Justin Fairfax for the Democratic nomination in June.
Two other Democratic candidates for attorney general ripped into Cuccinelli for the pivotal role he played in the approval of strict new regulations on the state's abortion providers.
Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, said the new regulations on which Cuccinelli insisted were a "covert attempt by the Republicans to put politicians between a woman and her doctor." His opponent, former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, said state health officials "bowed to pressure from out-of-touch politicians like Ken Cuccinelli."
Cuccinelli's campaign has shrugged off criticisms from down-ballot candidates as an "attempt from Terry McAuliffe and his liberal allies to distract" voters from problems with McAuliffe's former electric-car company, GreenTech Automotive. That company is at the heart of many of the criticisms that Republican candidates are leveling at McAuliffe.
Pete Snyder, a GOP activist now running for lieutenant governor, has frequently targeted McAuliffe rather than the six other Republicans he's running against. The party will hold a convention next month to decide the nominee.
Last week, Snyder launched SearchingForTMac.com, which redirects people to a page on his website that offers "tips" for Googling some of GreenTech's recent issues.
McAuliffe's campaign didn't respond to Snyder's jabs.
Snyder said the GOP race is "a wonderful opportunity to show the real contrast of a team and people focused on creating Virginia jobs and moving forward the Virginia economy versus one who is a seasoned Washington insider who had an opportunity to create jobs in Virginia and he chose Mississippi, and it's falling apart at the seams."