There aren't many hot races in this off-off election year, but the Virginia governor's race is packed full of enough drama and weirdness for a dozen contests. Here's just a sampling of the crazy: An obsessive vendetta against a prominent climate scientist. A fledgling cleantech company under federal investigation. A $1,500 turkey dinner (let's hope it was organic and heritage breed). Dueling high-profile billionaire donors. And as a bonus, the Clintons are mixed up in it too -- Bill, Hillary, and even Hillary's brother.
Some recent polls have shown Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a small lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli, but the race is widely considered a tossup. Virginia voters seem equally disgusted by both candidates. The sniping between the two sides has become so intense that Time called the race "the dirtiest, nastiest, low-down campaign in America."
Here's how the contest is shaking out in terms of climate and energy issues:
Ken "The Cooch" Cuccinelli is no ordinary GOP climate denier. As Virginia's attorney general, he waged a two-year campaign to discredit one of the world's top climate scientists, Michael Mann. Mann was a professor at the University of Virginia when his research led to publication of the iconic hockey-stick graph, which shows how average northern hemisphere temperatures have soared since the late 20th century. (The hockey stick has been reaffirmed by multiple subsequent studies.) In 2010 and 2011, Cuccinelli accused Mann of fraud and repeatedly tried to obtain papers and emails from his time at UVA, a failed attempt to discredit Mann's climate research that proved costly for Mann, UVA, and Virginia taxpayers.