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They said it’s a conflict of interest for him to provide legal counsel to the Board of Elections as he runs for governor.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
RICHMOND — Democrats Wednesday formally requested that Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli excuse his office from representing the State Board of Elections on legal matters related to the upcoming statewide races.
The request came in a letter Wednesday to the attorney general’s office from Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. It could be seen as the latest attempt to highlight conflicts that Democrats argue have arisen over Cuccinelli’s refusal to leave office during his gubernatorial run.
The last six elected attorneys general of Virginia resigned before the ends of their terms in order to run for governor.
“It is unreasonable, and a clear conflict of interest, for you to both appear on the ballot and provide legal counsel to the Board of Elections,” Herring writes to Cuccinelli.
“Your office has repeatedly stated that if any controversial issue were to arise, special counsel would be appointed to resolve the conflict,” Herring writes. “That isn’t enough and ignores the larger issue at hand.”
Herring said because the attorney general’s office represents the elections board, the Democratic Party of Virginia has to seek legal guidance from the attorney general’s office on matters related to the election. Similarly, the attorney general’s office would be responsible for providing legal guidance to the campaign being run by its current boss, Cuccinelli.
“This arrangement presents a conflict even in the case of noncontroversial requests for legal or procedural clarifications,” Herring states.
Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said there is no conflict of interest under the current arrangement.
“The senior assistant attorney general who is counsel to the State Board of Elections is a career civil servant,” he said in a statement. “He has always served the people of the commonwealth by impartially representing the board, not any side’s political interests.”
Gottstein noted that local commonwealth’s attorneys run for re-election all the time while their offices continue to provide legal counsel to their local electoral boards.
“This situation is no different,” he said.
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