One of Virginia's top Democrats is painting a picture of a sharp right turn should Republican Ken Cuccinelli win the governor's race this year.
State Senate Democratic Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Springfield) told The Huffington Post that he sees Cuccinelli using the governorship to advance the conservative agenda he's been pressing since his days as a state senator. Republicans control both houses of the state legislature, and Saslaw warned Cuccinelli's election would bring what he sees as Tea Party dominance to Virginia.
"The state is screwed," Saslaw said when asked about the possible impact of a Cuccinelli victory.
Cuccinelli, the state attorney general, is running against Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe to succeed term-limited Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican.
Highlighting what is likely to be a consistent Democratic attack, Saslaw pointed to a series of decisions Cuccinelli has made while in public office that he said show the attorney general is a right-wing activist. Saslaw noted bills Cuccinelli introduced as a state senator to allow for the firing of private-sector workers who did not speak English and to prevent undocumented immigrants injured on the job from receiving workers compensation. Saslaw also drew attention to Cuccinelli's actions as attorney general, including his pro-life stance and his attempt to keep the state's ban on sodomy -- which has been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court -- on the books.
"He was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party," Saslaw said. "He is not remotely interested in anyone who is not a 100 percent believer."
A Cuccinelli campaign spokeswoman declined to comment.
Saslaw said he expects the fall campaign to focus on Cuccinelli's beliefs and the need for Democrats to prevent a Republican from winning the top job in the decidedly purple state. Polls are running even between Cuccinelli and McAuliffe, but Saslaw said voters will seek out the Democrat once they begin to understand Cuccinelli's record.
McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, was unsuccessful in his effort to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Virginia in 2009. But Saslaw said McAuliffe has spent the last four years seeking the governorship and introducing himself to Virginians, noting he has attended several-thousand party events around the state since 2009.
McAuliffe made his name as a fundraiser for former President Bill Clinton, and Saslaw said he will have access to more funding than Cuccinelli. "Terry is capable of raising an ungodly sum of money," he said.
Saslaw also described McAuliffe as the "pro-business" candidate, saying the Democrat would use his contacts in the business community to lure more companies to the state.
In the event of a Cuccinelli win, Saslaw said Virginians can look to Republican-controlled state governments in other states, including North Carolina, North Dakota and Kansas, for an idea of the issues that would gain importance in Richmond. In particular, he singled out North Dakota's new anti-abortion law, one of the most extreme laws of its kind.
"You will see it all," Saslaw said. "We are North Dakota if that guy gets elected governor."