By Charles Owens
Virginia Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli believes President Barack Obama is waging a war on coal in Southwest Virginia, and he is committed to fighting the administration.
"There is no question they are waging a war on coal," Cuccinelli said in a recent meeting with members of the Daily Telegraph's editorial board. "In Virginia the war on coal is a war on our poor. It's a war on our middle class. In this part of Virginia it is a war on our part of life. And it goes a lot further than that. I have fought to protect the opportunity in Virginia to continue the coal business."
Cuccinelli is being challenged by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe in the Nov. 5 gubernatorial contest. Both men are hoping to succeed outgoing Gov. Bob McDonell, also a Republican. As attorney general of Virginia, Cuccinelli has taken the federal Environmental Protection Agency to court, and has challenged the science known as climate change. The Obama administration claims fossil fuels such as coal are leading to climate change, also known as global warming.
"I have a track record of fighting to keep the opportunity represented by coal alive and to protect and preserve that part of life," Cuccinelli said. "What is coming from Washington is so out of balance. They are completely out of balance. My opponent said -- "I never want another coal plant in Virginia as governor.' -- That is what he said 2009."
Cuccinelli said a McAuliffe administration would result in a continued war on coal while also sending electricity rates .. "through the roof."
"The part of Virginia that relies on coal service the most is the APCO [Appalachian Power] service area," Cuccinelli said. "They are 80 percent and climbing. Everything that is happening in the war on coal effects them double."
Cuccinelli said McAuliffe is all about green projects -- "green energy this, green energy that."
Cuccinelli also defended his decision to investigate a climate change scientist in Virginia, adding that claims by McAuliffe that the move was a "witch hunt" were inaccurate.
"This was basically just a document demand," Cuccinelli, who doesn't agree with the science of climate change, said. "It was basically a Freedom of Information Act from an attorney general and he resisted."
Cuccinelli also addressed the issue of methane royalties in Southwest Virginia, and the return of payments to area residents.
"I'm committed, and what we proposed back then was a mandatory arbitration procedure," Cuccinelli said. "Will it be perfect -- no? But we are never going to get perfect. I'm more concerned with the fact that we have a process that is correct. We get as close to it as we can, and often as we can, and get money out to those folks. That was part one of my proposal. Part two would have made it a lot clearer how the royalties are calculated. Consol opposed that. Why they want less clarity, I'll let you conclude. But we pushed for more clarity."
Cuccinelli said he is the only candidate who has proposed a solution to the methane royalties issue.
"I believe in my term as governor we can just about get all of that money out," Cuccinelli said. "And as you know it has just sat and sat. I guess the bank loves it. But no one else does."
In terms of the new Affordable Care Act law, also known as Obamacare, Cuccinelli as attorney general vigorously challenged the new law in court. He believes the health care law will not work, and will hurt doctors, hospitals and average citizens.
"Mostly what I see is destruction of the existing health care system and the reduction of freedom," Cuccinelli said. "I said when we were carrying on that litigation -- that lawsuit was about liberty, not health care."
Cuccinelli is also concerned about the lack of health care plans currently allocated for residents of Southwest Virginia as part of the federally-operated exchange in Virginia.
"That concerns me a great deal," Cuccinelli said. "I really believe in competition. It's not perfect. It will never be perfect. But it's a form of accountability in the marketplace. You need a competitor. And that's a federal exchange. We aren't setting up a state exchange. They gave us no reason to participate in it. It just doesn't make sense for Virginia."
Cuccinelli also was asked about Gov. Bob McDonnell's decision to returns thousands of dollars in gifts received from the Virginia-based company, Star Scientific Inc., and his initial refusal to return $18,000 in gifts the attorney general received from the company over a period of several years.
"I don't have anything to return," Cuccinelli said. "He (McDonnell) got cash, clothes, a watch. I didn't get anything like that."
As an example, Cuccinelli said he stayed in a house provided by the company as a guest. But you can't return a house you don't own.
"It's his house -- I don't have anything to return," Cuccinelli added. "I'm just not in the governor's situation at all. I'm in a totally different place. I've been as transparent as one can humanly be."
Cuccinelli has since made a donation to a Richmond-based charity totaling the same amount of the gifts he received from Star Scientific.
Cuccinelli also was asked about his faith and God. His lieutenant governor running mate, E.W. Jackson, has made headlines for bringing God into the race, and suggesting that the Democratic Party no longer supported the founding principles of the nation.
"I'm a history buff, and all of that reading came in handy when we got into the health care case," Cuccinelli said. "Because when you get into reading the Constitution as it was originally written there is a very historical element to that. There is no faith legal requirement, and that is a good thing. We can thank Thomas Jefferson for moving us in that direction. But there was an exception on the part of the citizenry. If they wanted you to be a leader in government, they expected you to be a person of faith. But more fundamentally just there was an expectation that they wanted to elect people of faith. Now it is the opposite. In many respects, and I'm speaking very generically and not about your newspaper, but the media criticizes people of faith for being people of faith. I'm not a public person about my faith, but I'll tell you what -- it is a priority in my life. And I think it was for the founders."
In discussing transportation, Cuccinelli said he hopes to make the governor less powerful in determining the expenditure of transportation dollars, and to move toward objective standards as opposed to political standards when determining highway needs across the Commonwealth.
Cuccinelli also was asked about the rampant mud-slinging and negative tone of the gubernatorial race, and the daily claims and counter-claims between the candidates. For example, he says claims by his opponent that he will ban oral and anal sex between married couples is a lie, and pointed to his daughters when asked about claims by his opponent that he is waging a war on women. Cuccinelli also was asked about where he stands on abortion.
"Look, I'm pro-life," Cuccinelli said. "I've always been pro-life. I want to support a culture of life. We saw recently the passage by the General Assembly of abortion and clinic regulations. I was willing to compromise. The key to me was protecting the health and safety of women in Virginia."
When asked to elaborate on abortion, Cuccinelli said he believes life begins at conception.
McAuliffe, a businessman from Fairfax County, is a former chairman of the Democra-tic National Committee who also served as chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
McAuliffe has ignored repeated requests by the Daily Telegraph for an editorial board session interview. And his political camp hasn't given the Daily Telegraph a reason as to why McAuliffe continues to ignore this newspaper's requests for an editorial board interview.
Given his refusal to participate in an editorial board session, the Daily Telegraph has been unable to ask McAuliffe questions of interest to voters in Southwest Virginia, as well as the same questions asked to Cuccinelli.
-- Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com