Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Old Dominion's top law enforcement officer and a fierce opponent of LGBT rights, announced to his staff in an e-mail today that he plans to run for governor of the commonwealth in 2013, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
Cuccinelli, a Republican, was previously thought to be a possible challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in 2014. But his decision to step into the governor's race means he will face a Republican primary against current Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who already has announced his intention to run.
Republican Gov. Bob McDonell, who is term-limited but also a subject of national speculation, has said he will stand by his promise to support Bolling as his successor. But Cuccinelli's popularity, particularly with grassroots conservatives and the Tea Party, are expected to make the race competitive.
In the e-mail to his staff, Cuccinelli said that although he was expected to run for re-election as attorney general, he felt he could best serve the people of Virginia from the governor's office.
In a public statement, Cuccinelli said he wanted to "ensure that there would be no misunderstanding from this point on." He said he would focus on his job as attorney general and would formally announce his gubernatorial run at a later point.
"Politically, we as Republicans need to continue to work toward less government, fostering an environment that increases jobs and improves our economic condition, and strives to elect a Republican President, a United States Senator and Congressional Delegation that will not only carry Virginia, but bring back to our nation a federal government that restrains itself in terms of both spending and the exercise of power, consistent with the first principles on which this nation was founded," he said in the statement.
Cuccinelli first made headlines as attorney general when he advised public colleges that they could not adopt nondiscrimination policies protecting LGBT students. He also got into a legal battle with the University of Virginia when he subpoenaed documents relating to the work of a former climate scientist at the university who he accused of fraud. More recently, he sued both the Environmental Protection Agency over rulings on climate change and the federal government over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the federal health-care overhaul bill, a case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.