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Members of the Democratic state ticket gathered recently in Richmond for their first campaign rally an immediately labeled their Republican opponents as extremists.
"The Tea Party ticket says their top priority is a career-long mission to outlaw abortion in all cases and ban some common forms of birth control," Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, told a crowd of about 150 at the Hippodrome Theater in Jackson Ward.
The claim caught our attention. There’s no doubt that the members of the GOP slate -- gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson and attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain -- are strongly opposed to abortion. But have they really said their No. 1 goal is to ban abortion and some forms of contraception?
We asked McAuliffe’s campaign for proof and spokesman Josh Schwerin pointed to a comment Cuccinelli made at a February 2012 rally to support personhood legislation. The bill, which defined life as beginning at conception, had passed the House when Cuccinelli spoke but would subsequently die in the Senate.
"It’s hard to believe we actually have to come and advocate for something as basic as life, but we’ve had to do it for decades and we’re going to have to do it for the rest of our lives," The Washington Times quoted Cuccinelli as saying. "The fight for life is going to last for all of our lives."
Schwerin cited various press reports and other materials saying the personhood measure would lead to a ban on all abortions and forms of birth control that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a uterus.
But this Truth-O-Meter is not about the consequences of personhood legislation. We are examining whether the GOP ticket has proclaimed that ending abortion and certain types of contraception is its top priority. So Cuccinelli’s comments at the rally are immaterial.
There are plenty of instances when members of the GOP ticket opposed abortion. Cuccinelli helped muscle through controversial new regulations that require clinics performing abortions to comply with building code standards for hospitals -- an action that was criticized as a ruse to force clinics to close. In a May 18 speech at the Republican state convention accepting the gubernatorial nomination, Cuccinelli called for "defending those at both ends of life -- protecting the elderly from abuse as well as the unborn."
Jackson, the lieutenant governor nominee, has called abortion "genocide." And Obenshain, running for attorney general, has consistently voted to restrict abortion rights during his nine years in the state Senate.
But when it comes to identifying the most important issue facing voters this fall, Cuccinelli has said it’s the economy.
He was asked in a Jan. 3 radio interview on The John Fredericks Show how a Cuccinelli administration would differ from current GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell.
"In some ways it would be very similar," Cuccinelli replied. "Certainly the same top priority of focusing on economic opportunity would be the same in a Cuccinelli administration."
And in a May 7 news conference announcing his tax plan, Cuccinelli said "as governor, job creation will be my top priority."
We asked McAuliffe’s spokesman if he had any other evidence that Cuccinelli and his running mates have stated that ending abortions and restricting birth control are their main reasons for running this year.
Schwerin pointed to comments Cuccinelli made last September during a visit to Prison Fellowship, a Lansdowne-based ministry.
"Start with the priorities. Work your way down: life, family, community, world -- a lot of ways to affect the ones at the bottom," Cuccinelli said. "It gets narrower and narrower as you get to the top. None of those other rights matter a whole lot if you don’t get born."
Schwerin provided another snippet of a clip, this one from Cuccinelli’s appearance at a June 2011 conference of homeschoolers in Herndon.
"And that’s where the candidate’s responsibility arises. You give a campaign purpose. My purpose was to fight abortion, to shrink government, to protect life and families," Cuccinelli said.
That establishes once again that one of Cuccinelli’s key reasons for entering politics is to oppose abortion. But it falls short of a declaration by the GOP ticket of its No. 1 goal.
McAuliffe claimed the GOP ticket "says their top priority is a career-long mission to outlaw abortion in all cases and ban some common forms of birth control."
A compelling argument can be made that members of the GOP ticket will do everything possible to restrict abortions and those actions could ban certain types of birth control. But McAuliffe went an extra step and put words in the mouths of his opponents.
We rate McAuliffe’s statement False.
Terry McAuliffe’s comments at rally for the Democratic slate, June 12, 2013.
E-mails from Josh Schwerin, spokesman for the Terry McAuliffe campaign, June 14-20.
The Washington Times, "Virginia Republicans push back at critics of their agenda," Feb. 15, 2012.
Legislative Information System, H.B. 1 from the 2012 session, accessed June 20, 2013.
Cuccinelli for Governor, "Cuccinelli prepared remarks for the 2013 Republican State Convention," May 18, 2013.
Ken Cuccinelli interview on The John Fredericks Show, Jan. 3, 2013.
NBC 12 Decision Virginia, "Cuccinelli on his tax plan, " May 7, 2013.
YouTube, "None of those matter," accessed June 20, 2013.
YouTube, "KC’s purpose," accessed June 20, 2013.
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