Cuccinelli offers tepid support for Norment as Majority Leader
The Virginia Senate is something that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli cares quite a bit about. Before he ascended to his current post, Cuccinelli spent eight years in the Senate carving out a reputation as a tenacious voice for conservative causes, while at the same time cruising to re-election in his Northern Virginia district.
So it is not a surprise that Cuccinelli campaigned hard for Senate republicans in their effort to capture that house and that he has an opinion about how they should conduct business now that they have a razor-thin majority.
Shortly after the election, Cuccinelli warned that his former comrades in the conservative wing of the Senate caucus not be ignored.
“It will be important to see how the conservatives are treated in the Senate GOP Caucus,” he wrote on his facebook page. “What chairmanships and caucus leadership positions will conservatives have? What committee slots?”
At that point Cuccinelli did not know who the Republicans would elect as their Majority Leader. A few days later the caucus tapped Sen. Tommy Norment, a moderate, to the post. Norment was the Minority Leader. While Cuccinelli and Norment are both republicans, that aren’t necessarily allies.
“Senator Norment and I have had our differences,” Cuccinelli admitted during a wide-ranging interview Thursday morning.
While the Attorney General wasn’t enthusiastic about the prospects of Norment leading the GOP, he conceded his personality may prove to be beneficial when wading the choppy waters of a 20-20 split.
“He has done this 20 years,” said Cuccinelli. “He understands that it is going to be hard to keep that caucus together, not because they are dying to break apart, but because you can’t give up one (vote).”
Cuccinelli is a powerful voice in the conservative wing of the party. He doesn’t have a vote in the Senate anymore, but his support could make life easier for Senators who could face unsettled supporters hungry for their issues to be passed with a newfound majority.
When asked he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, come up with another member of the GOP caucus who might be able to manage the Senate better than Norment. Cuccinelli said that he and Norment are both “type-A” personalities which can be good and bad.
“If what you want is kumbaya consensus, type-A’s aren’t necessarily what you want for that role,’ he said. “But we tend to be better cat herders, so there is kind of a trade-off there.”
And as the General Assembly convenes, conservatives will want their voice heard. If there is a sense Norment isn’t offering that, herding those cats may become difficult.
“I think the necessity of the situation is going to demand a level of diplomacy toward his own caucus, that is really going to push him from a leadership standpoint,” said Cuccinelli. “I expect he will respond. Time will tell.”
See an extended clip from my conversation with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli below:
I also talked to the AG about 2012, the Virginia Senate Race and the prospects for his challenge to the Obama health care law in the Supreme Court. More on that soon on Decision Virginia.