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Javier Sierra Headshot

A Dangerous Extremist Aiming for Virginia's Governorship

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When it comes to the Virginia gubernatorial campaign of Republican Ken Cuccinelli, we Latinos better pay good attention to his radical political agenda.

His extremist record lies in direct contradiction to the Latino community's priorities on a long list of issues, including the protection of our families' health.

According to an NCLR/Sierra Club survey of Latino voters, 92 percent of respondents think climate change is either happening (77 percent) or is about to happen (15 percent). This practically unanimous consensus encounters a wall of opposition in Cuccinelli, one of the country's most radical climate-change deniers.

In 2010, as Virginia's attorney general -- his current post -- he challenged the U.S. EPA in court in an attempt to force it to reject its conclusion that climate change is a danger to people. His particular crusade at the cost of taxpayers' money ended up crashing into a federal appeals court, which ruled that the EPA's opinion was "unambiguously correct."

That same year, Cuccinelli's knack for frivolous litigation hit a new height when he filed a lawsuit demanding that University of Virginia climatologist Michael Mann release his research papers alleging he defrauded the taxpayer by concluding that climate change was real. His witch-hunt also failed, this time at Virginia's Supreme Court, at a cost of $500,000 to the taxpayer.

Cuccinell's anti-science extremism can only be compared to his passion to protect the fossil fuel industry and other polluters. Just consider that, according to the NCLR/Sierra Club survey, for 83 percent of Latinos, coal plants and oil refineries "are a thing of the past." This is irrelevant to Cuccinelli.

Three years ago, Virginia landowners filed a class action suit against coal companies, which for years refused to pay them just compensation for the methane gas extracted from their properties. Cuccinelli's office threw moral and technical support behind the coal companies in the form of dozens of emails full of legal advice it later tried to cover up. One of those companies, Consol Energy, gave $3,500 to the Cuccinelli campaign before the court case started. After the case began, Consol gave Cuccinelli $140,000 more.

Cuccinelli is convinced the regulations that protect us all from air and water pollution constitute nothing but a plot by environmental groups to "destroy and get rid of capitalism." In 2011, at the State's Supreme Court, he challenged a decision that ruled in favor of residents who had sued Campbell County for the contamination of underground water coming from a landfill. That same year, Cuccinelli testified before the U.S. Congress against EPA standards limiting the emissions of mercury and other air toxics.

Perhaps Cuccinelli should take a good look at the NCLR/Sierra Club survey, according to which, 43 percent of us live or work dangerously close to a toxic site, such as a coal plant, an oil refinery or a dump. The same poll found that 47 percent of respondents have a relative suffering from asthma and 41 percent from cancer.

It's no wonder 72 percent of Latino voters support environmental regulations, 87 percent would rather work for the clean energy industry and 86 percent favor government investments in clean energy instead of dirty fossil fuels.

What's at stake in this election is the health of our families. Our community cannot afford an extremist such as Ken Cuccinelli in the governor's mansion come Nov. 5.

Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC

Paid for by the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club PAC. Not authorized by any candidate.

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