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McDonnell quits AG to run for governor

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell said Tuesday he will resign later this month to focus on his Republican campaign for governor.
McDonnell said being a candidate and an attorney general are both full-time jobs and he didn’t feel it was fair to split his time between the two. He said Feb. 20 will be his last day in the post he won four years ago by just 323 votes out of nearly 2 million cast.
"It’s now time for me to dedicate myself full-time to the mission and the effort ahead for me, and that is to be able to bring jobs and opportunity and reform and prosperity to every region of this great commonwealth of Virginia," McDonnell told reporters at a Capitol Square news conference.
The move frees up the presumptive GOP nominee to campaign for months while three Democrats battle to a June primary in what is expected to be a closely watched election.
Most likely to succeed McDonnell is William C. Mims, his 51-year-old chief deputy and a former Republican member of the state Senate.
The General Assembly is expected to take up Mims’ confirmation for the interim post before its scheduled adjournment Feb. 28.
McDonnell risked putting the appointment in Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s hands if he didn’t step down before the General Assembly adjourned.
Mims said McDonnell would be a tough act to follow. In the past three years, McDonnell’s office has helped enact tough laws to combat violent sexual predators, helped shut down environmental polluters and fought against gang violence in the Shenandoah Valley and prescription painkiller abuse in southwest Virginia.
"I agree with Bob that the office is an extraordinary group of public servants and it will be an honor to lead them," Mims said.
McDonnell continues the tradition of every attorney general — Republican and Democrat — who has held the office since 1985, stepping aside early to run for governor. Doing so allows them to avoid conflicts that might arise from holding the job during a political campaign.
McDonnell said he expects many Republicans will travel to Virginia to stump for him, including former presidential contender John McCain next month.
McDonnell, 54, has raised nearly $3 million for what is expected to be an aggressive, lavishly funded battle. Only two states, Virginia and New Jersey, elect governors this year, and Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine is seeking re-election in New Jersey.

"I think there’s a lot of optimism among conservatives and Republicans in Virginia and around the country that this is a winnable race, that we’ve got a united team, and we’ve got an outstanding chance to win for the first time since ’97," McDonnell said.

It’s the first major contest after Democratic victories in the November presidential and congressional elections and marks a determined effort by Virginia’s once-dominant Republicans to end an eight-year losing skid.

On the Democratic side, Kaine is the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Barred by Virginia’s Constitution from seeking a successive term, Kaine is under heavy pressure to have a Democrat succeed him and will have plenty of national party cash to send into his state to help the eventual nominee.

While McDonnell will spend much of the spring touring the nation hitting up major GOP and corporate donors, Democrats Terry McAuliffe, Brian J. Moran and R. Creigh Deeds will be fighting a brutal primary battle.

McAuliffe, the former DNC chairman, brings a donor portfolio that allowed him to raise nearly $1 million in just six weeks after he filed as a candidate in November and is already running television ads.

Moran, a former senior Democrat in the House of Delegates, boasts a deep list of endorsements from local party officials and is portraying McAuliffe as a carpetbagger never active in Virginia’s party.

Deeds is still in the Virginia Senate, unable to raise cash until the session ends but keeping a high profile in this year’s debate over where and how much to cut the state’s troubled budget.

Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Dick Cranwell said any notion that a bruising primary will hurt the Democratic nominee’s chances against McDonnell should be countered by the outcome of the protracted fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Cranwell said while McDonnell was known in the legislature for championing social issues, Democrats are more concerned with the problems affecting everyday Virginians.

"I think they’ll have a campaign that is focused on issues that solve problems that people are concerned about, and right now people are focused on their jobs, the economy and the future for their children," he said.

After 32 years in public service — as an Army officer, prosecutor, legislator and attorney general — McDonnell said he likely would join a law firm, but said he would not elaborate on that now.

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McDonnell quits AG to run for governor

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell said Tuesday he will resign later this month to focus on his Republican campaign for governor.
McDonnell said being a candidate and an attorney general are both full-time jobs and he didn’t feel it was fair to split his time between the two. He said Feb. 20 will be his last day in the post he won four years ago by just 323 votes out of nearly 2 million cast.
"It’s now time for me to dedicate myself full-time to the mission and the effort ahead for me, and that is to be able to bring jobs and opportunity and reform and prosperity to every region of this great commonwealth of Virginia," McDonnell told reporters at a Capitol Square news conference.
The move frees up the presumptive GOP nominee to campaign for months while three Democrats battle to a June primary in what is expected to be a closely watched election.
Most likely to succeed McDonnell is William C. Mims, his 51-year-old chief deputy and a former Republican member of the state Senate.
The General Assembly is expected to take up Mims’ confirmation for the interim post before its scheduled adjournment Feb. 28.
McDonnell risked putting the appointment in Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s hands if he didn’t step down before the General Assembly adjourned.
Mims said McDonnell would be a tough act to follow. In the past three years, McDonnell’s office has helped enact tough laws to combat violent sexual predators, helped shut down environmental polluters and fought against gang violence in the Shenandoah Valley and prescription painkiller abuse in southwest Virginia.
"I agree with Bob that the office is an extraordinary group of public servants and it will be an honor to lead them," Mims said.
McDonnell continues the tradition of every attorney general — Republican and Democrat — who has held the office since 1985, stepping aside early to run for governor. Doing so allows them to avoid conflicts that might arise from holding the job during a political campaign.
McDonnell said he expects many Republicans will travel to Virginia to stump for him, including former presidential contender John McCain next month.
McDonnell, 54, has raised nearly $3 million for what is expected to be an aggressive, lavishly funded battle. Only two states, Virginia and New Jersey, elect governors this year, and Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine is seeking re-election in New Jersey.

"I think there’s a lot of optimism among conservatives and Republicans in Virginia and around the country that this is a winnable race, that we’ve got a united team, and we’ve got an outstanding chance to win for the first time since ’97," McDonnell said.

It’s the first major contest after Democratic victories in the November presidential and congressional elections and marks a determined effort by Virginia’s once-dominant Republicans to end an eight-year losing skid.

On the Democratic side, Kaine is the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Barred by Virginia’s Constitution from seeking a successive term, Kaine is under heavy pressure to have a Democrat succeed him and will have plenty of national party cash to send into his state to help the eventual nominee.

While McDonnell will spend much of the spring touring the nation hitting up major GOP and corporate donors, Democrats Terry McAuliffe, Brian J. Moran and R. Creigh Deeds will be fighting a brutal primary battle.

McAuliffe, the former DNC chairman, brings a donor portfolio that allowed him to raise nearly $1 million in just six weeks after he filed as a candidate in November and is already running television ads.

Moran, a former senior Democrat in the House of Delegates, boasts a deep list of endorsements from local party officials and is portraying McAuliffe as a carpetbagger never active in Virginia’s party.

Deeds is still in the Virginia Senate, unable to raise cash until the session ends but keeping a high profile in this year’s debate over where and how much to cut the state’s troubled budget.

Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Dick Cranwell said any notion that a bruising primary will hurt the Democratic nominee’s chances against McDonnell should be countered by the outcome of the protracted fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Cranwell said while McDonnell was known in the legislature for championing social issues, Democrats are more concerned with the problems affecting everyday Virginians.

"I think they’ll have a campaign that is focused on issues that solve problems that people are concerned about, and right now people are focused on their jobs, the economy and the future for their children," he said.

After 32 years in public service — as an Army officer, prosecutor, legislator and attorney general — McDonnell said he likely would join a law firm, but said he would not elaborate on that now.

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