November 13, 2013 at 12:08 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Herring declares victory in Virginia attorney general race

Mark Herring, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Herring (Photo courtesy of Herring for Attorney General)

State Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday declared victory in the Virginia attorney general race after a count of provisional ballots in Fairfax County showed him ahead of state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) by 163 votes.

“Voters in Virginia have spoken, their voices have been heard and I am honored to have won their votes and their trust to become Virginia’s next attorney general,” Herring said in a statement. “Over the course of the past week, a thorough and extensive process has ensured that every vote has been tallied and accounted for. The margin was close, but it is clear that Virginians have chosen me to serve as the next attorney general.”

The attorney general race is the closest statewide contest in Virginia history.

Obenshain was ahead of Herring by only 17 votes early on Monday. NBC 4 reported that Herring was ahead of Obenshain by 117 votes at the end of the day after the Richmond Electoral Board found it had not counted totals from one voting machine.

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Nov. 5 defeated Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the race to succeed Gov. Bob McDonnell by a 48-45 percent margin. State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) defeated Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson by a 55-45 percent margin in the lieutenant gubernatorial campaign.

LGBT rights advocates during the campaign criticized Obenshain for sponsoring a bill that McDonnell signed into law earlier this year that bans public universities from denying recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate in their membership based on sexual orientation and other unprotected categories under federal law. The Republican lawmaker also opposed a measure a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee tabled in February that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Northam noted to the Blade during a pre-election interview that Obenshain left the Senate floor when he and his colleagues in January voted to approve gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

“By the final vote count and canvass, it is clear that Attorney General-elect Mark Herring’s principled leadership and dedication to restoring integrity to the attorney general’s office prevailed over Tea Party Republican Obenshain’s long record of sponsoring and voting for divisive legislation,” Democratic Party of Virginia Chair Charniele Herring said in a statement on Tuesday. “I am proud of Attorney General-elect Herring. Virginians should take comfort that he will work to protect the interest of all people of the commonwealth.”

The State Board of Elections has until Nov. 25 to officially certify the results.

Obenshain did not specifically mention a recount in a statement he issued late on Tuesday, even though one is likely.

“We owe it to the people of Virginia to make sure we get it right and that every legitimate vote is counted and subject to uniform rules,” Obenshain said. “We have seen significant swings in the vote count over the last several days as errors are corrected as part of the regular canvass process. The State Board of Elections will now conduct its own review and we will await their results.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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