GOPer Mark Obenshain To Seek Recount In Virginia Attorney General’s Race

Not surprisingly, Republican nominee Mark Obenshain will seek a recount in the incredibly tight race to be Virginia’s next Attorney General:

State Sen. Mark Obenshain will formally ask for a recount in the historically tight race for Virginia attorney general, his campaign announced Tuesday, leaving the final outcome still unclear three weeks after Election Day.

The State Board of Elections certified the results of the contest Monday, with state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) declared the winner by 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast over Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg). The narrowness of that result — the closest statewide race in modern Virginia history — is well within the margin for the loser to request a recount that will be paid for by the state.

The Obenshain team announced in a statement Tuesday afternoon that it would do just that, and that two members of his legal team — Ashley L. Taylor, Jr. and Stephen C. Piepgrass — would hold a conference call with the media at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Herring, whose campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, has been proceeding as though he expects to serve as the next attorney general. He previously named a transition team, and on Tuesday announced the five co-chairs of his inaugural committee. The Democrat’s legal team has argued that it is very unlikely that a recount would overturn the result.

But Obenshain has also named a transition team and has stressed that the race is so close a recount could well make the difference.

Pat Mullins, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said Obenshain had “made the right decision.”

“Recounting a race this close is simply the prudent thing to do,” Mullins said. “Virginians like a quick resolution to our elections. I know I certainly do. But we must take the time to be sure that each and every legitimate vote is counted. Virginians deserve no less.”

In a radio interview Tuesday, Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) said he would “absolutely” ask for a recount if he were in Obenshain’s shoes.

“I feel for both of the candidates,” McDonnell said. “Here they are, they’ve slugged it out for two years, and it ain’t over. … I think both Mark and Mark are gonna have a stressful Thanksgiving.”

The last statewide recount in Virginia occurred in the 2005 attorney general race, when then-delegate McDonnell beat state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) by 360 votes. The result that year wasn’t certified until Dec. 21.

Under current state law — which has changed since 2005– a special recount court will be formed, helmed by the chief judge of the Richmond circuit court, to hear disputes and challenges raised by the two campaigns. Every ballot that can be recounted by hand will be, as those that were counted by optical scan machines will be run through the machines again.

Should be an interesting December in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    It’s a full-employment act for Republican vote thieves. Finally, something for Karl Rove to do other than explain his abject failure to his donor base of billionaire suckers.

  2. I honestly have to wonder if you’d feel the same way if the order of finish had put the Republican in first place instead of the Democrat.

    This is the closest statewide election in Virginia history. It falls well within the criteria for a recount. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for a recount here.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There’s a key difference, Doug: we have not made it our mission to keep minority voters and college kids away from the polls. We are in the business of encouraging more participation. We believe in elections. Republicans don’t.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    I think the recount is more than reasonable under the circumstances.

  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Given the very narrow outcome, it would be foolish not to seek the recount.

  6. David M says:

    The outcome probably won’t change, but a recount is a no-brainer with that close of a result.

  7. mattbernius says:

    Totally agree with @David M, @Gromitt Gunn, @Ron Beasley, & @Doug Mataconis on this. There’s no question there should be a recount here.

    This *isn’t* Coleman v. Frankin where the needless recount was as mix of denial and an effort to delay a supermajority in the Senate.

    And to @michael reynolds’s point, while I’m sympathetic to aspects of it, given the larger margins other Virginian Democrats won by in the same election, it’s difficult to tie this to any sort of voter suppression. If suppression was that much of an issue, it should have been demonstrated at all ticket levels (assuming the effect of block voting).

  8. Rob in CT says:

    165/2,200,000 is an absurd margin. Of course you do a recount.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    Of course there will be, and should be, a recount. As would be the case if Obenshain had won by a hundred or two hundred votes. And of course it will provide employment for the pre-existing corps of Rupublican vote thieves. So I’m failing to see any argument here.

    Anf of course there are Dem counterparts to the Republican vote thieves; but I see no evidence there are as many, as well trained and practiced, nor as ideologically dedicated.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    I’m ok with a recount considering how close it is. If the vote doesn’t flip after the recount and Obenshain then still continues to protest, I’ll wonder how much dedication he has to democracy. You don’t get to continually call for do-overs until it produces a result you like.

  11. Pinky says:

    @grumpy realist: Will you acknowledge his dedication to democracy if he doesn’t protest? Or next time someone says that all politicians do whatever they can to win, you’ll say “not so”?

    Or will you take the cynical stand that he must have figured he couldn’t get away with it. Because that would make your suspicion of his commitment to democracy unfalsifiable.