Ben Trump remembers vividly the first time he met State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37).
The 18 year-old was walking in the City of Fairfax Independence Day parade with U.S. Rep. Tom Davis’ (R-11) campaign last year when Cuccinelli bounded up to Trump and some young Davis volunteers and starting asking questions.
The senator was wearing a bright yellow shirt with "Vote Ken Cuccinelli" across the front, but it was a name Trump did not recognize. When Cuccinelli walked away, Trump was curious about the friendly person and asked who he was.
"I was surprised [to learn he was a senator.] He wasn’t cocky at all. He was just some regular guy who happened to be a senator," said Trump, a Davis intern at the time. "He definitely left a positive impression with me."
Trump , who graduated from West Springfield High School in May, intended to volunteer for a Republican General Assembly candidate for school credit during his senior year. He considered Del. Dave Albo (R- 42) and Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34) but decided he wanted to work for Cuccinelli after meeting him at the parade.
"Most people treat my age group like vermin. Ken and his campaign give me things to do and he talked to me like I was an equal. It meant a lot to me," said Trump, of his internship.
Cuccinelli also showed Trump he cared. When the intern’s close friend was badly hurt during a car accident, the senator took time out to talk to him and even offered to come visit the student in the hospital, said the intern.
"That is very unusual. I have worked on a couple of other campaigns. Most see you as a volunteer or constituent before they see you as a person," said Trump.
DESPITE all the accolades, Trump admits he is not sure yet whether he sees eye-to-eye with Cuccinelli politically. A devout Roman Catholic, Cuccinelli is considered one of the most right-wing members of the State Senate and the most conservative member of the Fairfax delegation.
"Personally, I don’t know where I lie politically. I know I lean right. I just don’t know how far right, " said Trump, who intends to vote for Cuccinelli in November.
Cuccinelli has come out strong in support of gun owners’ rights, anti-abortion measures and cutting taxes. He also came out strongly against President George W. Bush’s immigration plan and advocates denying all public benefits to illegal aliens.
He has also been active on issues that are not considered divisive from a political perspective.
For example, during the 2007 legislative session, he introduced several bills to address mental health issues prior to the Virginia Tech shootings. Cuccinelli proposed bills that could have extended outpatient and involuntary treatment to several more Virginia residents with mental illness or provided more affordable options for legal representation for those who need it during commitment hearings. None of the legislation passed.
"I am pretty much defending the basic rights of all us," said Cuccinelli, while knocking on constituents’ doors earlier this month.
CRITICS have said the Cuccinelli views are "extreme" when compared to those of his constituents in the 37th District, but the senator has several enthusiastic advocates.
"I am absolutely going to support him. I knew who he was before he opened the door," said Fairfax resident Tom O’Connor, after Cuccinelli knocked on his door earlier this month. O’Connor said gun rights and preserving property rights were of his priorities as a voter.
Many of Cuccinelli’s supporters tend to share his views and consider themselves conservatives..
"When I worked for Tom Davis, my experience was with moderates There were a lot of people who had no major commitment to either party. This has been a different experience. Cuccinelli supporters definitely pro-gun, pro-life Republicans," said Trump.
Even the senator made a joke about why he does not knock on his supporters’ doors as it starts to get dark in the evening.
"When you are dealing with people who feel strongly about the Second Amendment, it is best not to mess with their security," he said.
CUCCINELLI does attract some "crossover voters" because of his outreach and efforts to keep his voters informed, said Trump and other supporters.
The senator regularly updates constituents with a newsletter during the General Assembly session and said he knocks on neighborhood doors every year, not just in election season, to see what his constituents are concerned about.
In order to visit more houses in a shorter amount of time, Cuccinelli runs, instead of walks, between homes.
"I found I was spending more time getting from house to house than talking to the voters," said Cuccinelli, about his decision to sprint between houses.
Voters are also drawn to the senator’s honesty and steadfastness, according to supporters and staff. He never backs down from a vote or his opinion, even if it is unpopular, they said.
"As a politician, I find him remarkable. He doesn’t waffle. He doesn’t duck. When you ask him a question, you get an answer," said Bill Schmidt, a Cuccinelli supporter and former Republican legislative aide in the House of Delegates.
Schmidt said Cuccinelli is also a "master" of explaining complicated legislative issues to his constituents, said Schmidt.
"Ken gives one of the best analyses of the General Assembly I have ever heard. He’s able to really bring the issue out to his constituents and make them understand it." said Schmidt. "I have agreed with a lot of people who haven’t been able to make the issue clear."