VIRGINIA GOVERNOR'S RACE

Ken Cuccinelli not sweating about Star Scientific saga

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It was about 90 degrees, wet, sticky and muggy late Wednesday afternoon at Holly, Wood and Vines, a specialty gardening and landscaping business in Alexandria. Add to the mix all the towering plants and other greenery, the feeling was one of walking through a sweltering tropical forest.

But Ken Cuccinelli didn’t sweat -- unlike the small group of reporters following him and store owner Vanessa Wheeler on a brief tour of the facility.

Virginia’s Republican candidate for governor strolled through the aisles, admiring the eclectic pottery and peppering his host with questions about the business and the problems with which it has to deal.

When it was his turn to be peppered with questions, in this case by the assembled reporters, Cuccinelli understandably could have been forgiven for exhibiting even the slightest hint of perspiration, given the looming specter of the Star Scientific controversy to which he’s linked.

Not only didn’t he sweat, he didn’t flinch.

“It’s certainly a distraction,” Cuccinelli said in a soft-spoken, matter-of-fact tone. “. . . The circumstances that y’all are asking about, they matter now to one person but they aren’t about Virginia policy acceptance, so far as we obviously need to tighten up our gift policies and our transparency, which is something I’m totally committed to. I’d like to see caps, I’d like to see more immediate disclosure, and we’ll work with the general assembly to achieve that.”

Earlier in the day, though, Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) called on Gov. Bob McDonnell to resign amid the recurring revelations about gifts and favors received by Virginia businessman Jonnie R. Williams. Cuccinelli’s response?

No sweat.

“You know, that’s really not a question for an attorney general,” he said. “I think that’s a question for the governor.”

And of the gifts Cuccinelli himself has received from Williams, although of a far lesser value?

No sweat.

“I inadvertently didn’t report some things,” he said. “I’m the one who went back and found them. I’m the one who held a press conference and said, ‘Hey, here are all my items,’ and I missed four or five over the course of four years but that’s part of my commitment to transparency. When I make mistakes I own up to them.”

With that, he happily accepted a green store polo shirt as well as a store cap, even trying on the latter with a chuckle. And then he was gone. No fuss, no fanfare, no sweat.

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