Cuccinelli backs out of major conservative conference

Posted at 1:06 PM, Aug 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-01 13:06:34-04

(CNN) — Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s Republican nominee for governor, has pulled out of this weekend’s RedState Gathering, an annual conservative conference being held this year in New Orleans.

The conference, named for the popular website, stars a bevy of prominent Republican speakers, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cuccinelli, whose conservative efforts in the attorney general’s office have made him a favorite of grassroots Republican activists around the country, had originally agreed to be part of the program, but his campaign now says he has a scheduling conflict.

The candidate will instead spend the weekend doing multiple town halls in southwest Virginia, a spokesman for the campaign said. RedState impresario Erick Erickson said the same.

“He was coming, but the campaign staff decided he needed to be in Virginia on Saturday,” Erickson told CNN.

Cuccinelli has tried to move away from his reputation as a conservative crusader in the Virginia race, the only competitive statewide race in the country this year, by focusing on taxes and the economy rather than the heated partisan rhetoric that will certainly be part the conversation at RedState.

He has also worked to portray his opponent, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, as a carpetbagger funded by out-of-state money — but spending a weekend in New Orleans glad-handing conservatives might have undercut that message.

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