When it comes to Virginia Republicans at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, it's out with the old and in with the new.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was not invited to speak at this year's CPAC gathering, the annual national gathering of the GOP's conservative wing scheduled for next week in Washington, the governor's office confirmed Tuesday. McDonnell addressed the group last year and the year before but was snubbed this year. Instead, he will give the keynote address at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Prayer Breakfast on March 15.
However, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee running to replace McDonnell as governor, was tapped by CPAC organizers to help kick off the conference March 14 with a 9 a.m. speech. Cuccinelli gave brief remarks last year after the National Rifle Association presented the conservative stalwart with the Defender of Freedom Award.
The CPAC snub of McDonnell follows weeks of criticism aimed at the Republican leader from within his own party, particular from conservatives, who are angry that the governor broke a campaign promise not to raise taxes to pay for roads. The General Assembly last month passed a sweeping transportation funding overhaul that generates $880 million a year and McDonnell has said he will sign it. The plan hikes the sales tax, ties taxes on gasoline and diesel to inflation and makes it more expensive to buy a car, sell a home and stay a night in a hotel.
Cuccinelli blasted that plan as an "enormous tax increase," distancing himself from McDonnell's signature legislative achievement and fanning the flames of a civil war within the state and national parties. McDonnell, meanwhile, has promised to support Cuccinelli in the gubernatorial election.