Virginia Democrats came out Friday with the first negative television ad of state's governor race: an attack intended to undercut Republican Ken Cuccinelli's female support.
The 30-second spot criticizes Cuccinelli, the state attorney general, for refusing to join his counterparts across the country last year in lobbying Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Cuccinelli was one of just three attorneys general not to sign a letter supporting the legislation.
At the time, Cuccinelli's office said he rarely signed on to letters from the National Association of Attorneys General because the legislation often changed to something he was not comfortable with after he indicated support.
The ad shows the signatures of the other 47 attorneys general who did sign it and quotes a Roanoke newspaper that called Cuccinelli's refusal a "cowardly inaction." Democrats, including gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe, have frequently tried to undercut Cuccinelli's attempts to steer his campaign to the political center by playing up past stances on women's issues.
"He's focused on his own agenda, not us," the ad ends.
Cuccinelli responded to the ad by noting he's the father of five girls. He said he was "disappointed but not the least bit surprised" by the new commercial.
"As a student at the University of Virginia, long before I was even a Republican, I led an organized effort that resulted in the hiring of the university's first full-time sexual assault coordinator," Cuccinelli said. "Also at UVA, I helped establish a peer-to-peer sexual assault prevention group that was the first of its kind in the nation and still exists today."
Cuccinelli and McAuliffe have so far been running only positive ads to introduce themselves to voters. But the new Democratic spot instantly changes the tenor of the debate. With the New Jersey gubernatorial contest much less competitive than the Virginia race, plenty of money is expected to flow into the Old Dominion to bankroll the campaigns through November.
McAuliffe on Thursday held a fundraiser with friend and former President Bill Clinton in New York. At last count, McAuliffe held a significant financial advantage over Cuccinelli.