Virginia Democrats pushed two deeply emotional hot buttons Tuesday in the state's gubernatorial race, slamming Republican Ken Cuccinelli for equating the nation's bloody reckoning over slavery with today's anti-abortion movement.
Almost eight months before Election Day the Democratic Party of Virginia released video from last June that shows Cuccinelli addressing a small gathering of religious conservatives meeting in Williamsburg. It continues the Democrats' strategy of portraying the socially conservative attorney general as too extreme for a swing state.
“Over time, the truth demonstrates its own rightness, and its own righteousness. Our experience as a country has demonstrated that on one issue after another. Start right at the beginning, slavery. Today, abortion,” Cuccinelli said in remarks recorded by a Democratic Party tracker at a Family Foundation event on June 14, 2012.
“History has shown us what the right position was, and those were issues that were attacked by people of faith aggressively to change the course of this country,” he said. “We need to fight for the respect for life, not just for life but for respect for life. One leads to the other.”
Blending the explosive emotional issues of abortion and slavery signaled a race quickly gaining heat as the only competitive gubernatorial campaign in America, showcasing stark partisan and ideological divides in a state that has been won twice by Democratic President Barack Obama, yet has a Republican governor and GOP-ruled Legislature.
Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix called the DPV video an effort by the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, to shift the focus of the race away from job creation toward divisive issues. Neither McAuliffe nor Cuccinelli faces a challenger for the nomination.
“Instead, McAuliffe wants to take his experience as DNC Chairman and run a contentious campaign that divides Virginia. As attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli fights to protect the innocent. From victims of human trafficking and child pornography to those wrongly convicted of a crime, Ken will continue to speak for the weakest in our society,” Nix said.
Democrats contended that equating the struggle over institutionalized human bondage that led to the Civil War with abortion rights is improper in any context.
“By equating a woman's constitutional right to make her own health care decisions with slavery, Ken Cuccinelli proved yet again that he is too extreme for Virginia,” said Lauren Harmon, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia.
Suggesting any moral equivalency between the abolition of slavery and the dispute over abortion is historically ignorant at best and outrageous at worst, said L. Douglas Wilder, a Virginia grandson of slaves and the nation's first elected black governor.
“I would think that if Mr. Cuccinelli had a chance to reflect, he would refine his statements,” the Democratic former governor said Tuesday in an Associated Press telephone interview.
“It's hurtful to me, but it's a reminder that it's ignorance. And this isn't just relegated to white people. Any number of persons of African descent have no idea about slavery and its effects,” Wilder said.