Virginia Republicans have nominated a religious leader and a state senator to round out their ticket of statewide candidates.
The Republican Party of Virginia held a nominating convention in Richmond Saturday, formally nominating the sole Republican candidate for governor, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and nominating Bishop E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor and Sen. Mark Obenshain for attorney general.
Party Chairman Pat Mullins described the ticket as representing “leadership, experience and common-sense conservative values.”
However, Democrats and some moderate Republicans are already criticizing the highly conservative viewpoints of the three candidates.
“Frankly, I am rather appalled by the results,” said former Del. Vince Callahan, a Republican who represented the McLean area for decades. He has endorsed Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor. “From the McAuliffe standpoint, it almost guarantees a victory.”
Jackson, of Chesapeake, is a former attorney and founder of the nondenominational Christian church Exodus Faith Ministries. He also has led a campaign to encourage black Christians to leave the Democratic Party.
Jackson previously ran in the 2012 Republican Senate primary, receiving fewer than 5 percent of the votes in the four-way race.
For this nominating contest, he bested six other candidates seeking the party’s endorsement.
Obenshain has served in the state Senate since 2003, representing the Harrisonburg area, and is a lawyer who has worked on constitutional law cases in private practice.
In an interview last week, he said one of his primary motivations for running for attorney general is to offer a legal defense of states rights in light of federal regulations.
“Right now these are the great fights of our generation that are being fought,” he said.
In his acceptance speech Saturday morning, Cuccinelli showed no signs that the highly negative campaign he and McAuliffe have been engaged in will let up.
Cuccinelli interwove attacks on McAuliffe into a speech in which he also highlighted his accomplishments as attorney general and included promises to grow the state’s economy.
“Working together, we can grow our economy, creating new jobs and retaining the ones we already have,” he said, later adding, “We should be trying to create those new jobs here — not in Mississippi or in China.”
The latter point references the Cuccinelli campaign’s criticism of McAuliffe for locating a business venture in Mississippi.
The speech also continued his efforts to portray McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, as a “Washington insider” and raise questions about why the Democrat has not released complete copies of his tax returns.
“For Virginians who think Washington works well, they have a candidate in this race,” Cuccinelli said, drawing cheers and applause from the convention crowd.
Cuccinelli’s speech largely shied away from social issues, aside from an early mention of “defending those at both ends of life; protecting the elderly from abuse as well as the unborn.”
All three Republican candidates have a record of being socially conservative, something that Callahan says will turn off large segments of Virginia voters.
For example, liberal-leaning blogs have been quick to highlight Jackson’s past anti-gay comments and Obenshain’s efforts to pass legislation further restricting abortion rights.
“We live in a different society than we did 10 years ago and 100 years ago,” Callahan said, expressing dismay that his party has moved away from the “big tent” philosophy it once embraced. “The Republican Party I spent 50 years building is collapsing around me.”