All of the votes are counted, and Democrat Mark Herring now leads Republican Mark Obenshain by just 164 votes in the race for attorney general. Out of 2.2 million votes cast it is the closest race in Virginia history. But while Democrats declare victory, Republicans say it is far from over.
Both candidates announced the members of their respective transition teams Wednesday. Herring will call on help from former first lady Anne Holton, wife of Senator Tim Kaine. Obenshain will enlist former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore to get him up to speed.
With a measure of optimistic uncertainty, Obenshain says it is “premature” to begin talking about a recount before the state board of elections certifies results on November 25th.
“I’m sitting here telling you I don’t know how this is going to turn out,” he told reporters Wednesday. “Anybody would be a fool to make that bet, that definitively it’s going to wind up one way or another with a 164 vote margin.”
That margin breaks down to the slimmest lead ever for a political candidate in Virginia - just 0.007 percent - well within the one percent threshold to request a recount. But even a narrow win, Democrats say, is a win.
“We do believe that it will be our transition team and our attorney general who is going to be in there protecting Virginia families come January,” Democratic Party of Virginia Executive Director Lauren Harmon said.
If Herring hangs on, he will be the first Democrat to win the post since 1989. It will also mark the first Democratic sweep at Virginia polls since 1989. And, for the first time in more than four decades, the Democratic party would be control all statewide offices (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and both US Senate seats). So, obviously, winning the Attorney General’s seat is important. But in the short term it's not all good news. A victory could cost the winning party a big advantage in the General Assembly.
Right now, the state senate is divided evenly, 20-20, with Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling casting the tie-breaking vote. If Obenshain wins, the chamber will be temporarily split 19-19 with the tie-breaking vote in the hands of incoming Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. That would essentially give control of the chamber over to the Democrats, until special elections are held to replace Obenshain and Northam.
If Herring wins, Democrats will be down two seats in the Senate, giving control back to the Republicans. Special elections could ultimately return the chamber to a 20-20 split, or shift power to the Republicans. But those elections would normally take place in late January or early February, well into the legislative session. Factor in a potential recount next month and that could push the timetable back even further.
Until vacant seats are filled, the winning attorney general candidate’s party will almost certainly forfeit control of the Senate.
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science.Full Story
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story
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