Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is hoping that the campaigning he did for victims of sexual assault 30 years ago at the University of Virginia will help his chances to be elected goveror now. On Monday, Cuccinelli released a campaign video in which he and his wife, Teiro, explain how his college roommate's experience with sexual assault inspired him to protest for more resources for sexual assault victims on campus. The Cuccinelli campaign released the video amid ongoing shouts of "War on Women" from Virginia Democrats, not to mention Cuccinelli's 16-point disadvantage with women voters.
The video pulls mainly from a three-year-old Washington Post profile in which Cuccinelli describes a defining moment in his college career — a strange intruder broke into his female roommate's bedroom window one night and attempted to sexually assault her. After that (surely harrowing) experience, Cuccinelli campaigned for UVA's administration to hire a full time sexual assault education coordinator. He also founded Sexual Assault Facts and Education (SAFE), a student group whose focus is to raise awareness about rape on campus.
The work Cuccinelli did was helpful (SAFE still exists at UVA), but his narrative simplifies the problem of sexual assault on campus — most assaults aren't perpetrated by random intruders, but by friends or dates. And it doesn't appear that Cuccinelli has done much work for rape victims since his time at UVA. In his 2002 campaign for Virginia state Senate, Cuccinelli said that he did not support legal abortion for victims of rape or incest. He has however, pursued legislation to fight human trafficking. (The campaign video was incidentally filmed in the Cuccinellis' kitchen, which we now know is where male politicians go to appeal to women.)
Cuccinelli's democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe compared Cuccinelli's views on rape and abortion to Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin's in campaign materials released last weekend. An email to supporters read: "It's undeniable: Akin and Cuccinelli are two peas in a pod. They both support Personhood bills that would ban many common forms of birth control, including the pill . . . We need your help to stand up to the Tea Party and Akin's ideological twin, Ken Cuccinelli." McAuliffe's current lead in the polls is dependent on women voters. Pointing to his collegiate activism is Cuccinelli attempt to reach out to them — to show he cared about women's issues long before he launched his political career.
Virginia's gubernatorial race has proven to be one of the most negative in recent years. Don't expect McAuliffe to let Cuccinelli's ad lie for long.