Virginia AG abandons plans to back GOP primary ballot fight

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli gestures during a speech before the AP Day at the Capitol luncheon at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
AP Photo
Ken Cuccinelli
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli
AP Photo

The Republican presidential candidates hoping to get on the Virginia primary ballot faced a setback over the weekend when Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced he is no longer supporting their efforts to change the ballot requirements in the 2012 election.

Only two GOP candidates -- Mitt Romney and Ron Paul -- met the stringent requirements to appear on the Virginia primary ballot on March 6. On Saturday, Cuccinelli announced he would file emergency legislation to change the Virginia law, in order to get the rest of the candidates on the ballot.

But on Sunday, he reversed course.

"I obviously feel very strongly that Virginia needs to change its ballot access requirements for our statewide elections," Cuccinelli said in a statement. "However, after working through different scenarios with Republican and Democratic leaders to attempt to make changes in time for the 2012 Presidential election, my concern grows that we cannot find a way to make such changes fair to the Romney and Paul campaigns that qualified even with Virginia's burdensome system."

It was not entirely clear what caused Cuccinelli to make such a high-profile about face. In his statement, he added, "A further critical factor that I must consider is that changing the rules midstream is inconsistent with respecting and preserving the rule of law - something I am particularly sensitive to as Virginia's attorney general."

The rest of the GOP field will now have to rely on a court challenge filed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to get on the ballot. On Saturday, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum formally joined Perry's lawsuit. Perry has been granted a Jan. 13 court date.

On Fox News Monday morning, Perry said he has hundreds of thousands of supporters in Virginia, primarily veterans and active-duty military in the Norfolk area. His supporters and other Virginia voters will be "disenfranchised" if the ballot requirements are not changed, he said.