Mark Obenshain (R) looks to lose the election for Virginia Attorney General. The state board of elections is set to certify Mark Herring as the winner today. Obenshain's next option would be a taxpayer-funded recount. However, that will do little to change the outcome of the election.
Republican Mark Obenshain is trailing Democrat Mark Herring for attorney general by 164 votes. Obenshain could win with as few as 71 — with not a single one cast by an ordinary Virginian. It is a nuclear option that takes the election out of the hands of the electorate.Jump below for more information on this procedure:
Obenshain could initiate what state law calls a “contest” in which the 140-member legislature decides the attorney generalship by a majority vote. That would be a minimum of 71. They shouldn’t be too difficult for Obenshain to round up. There are 87 Republican legislators. Many of them don’t like one bit that their party could be completely shut out of statewide office.
This is a high-risk strategy. If he chooses to initiate this, Democrats will make the accusation that he is stealing the election over the will of the people. But, it will put him in position as the leading Republican in the state and the presumptive frontrunner for the 2017 election. Where this will come up again.
The fundraising he's doing suggests he's preparing for everything. He recently was given $50,000 by the Republican State Leadership Committee. Not only will that help pay his lawyer, but a contest costs $10 per precinct. And with over 2600 precincts, that adds up to a lot of cash.
Now here's where some serious conflicts of interest come in. A recount will go in front of a Richmond court.
The supervising judge could be Brad Cavedo, chief judge of the city’s Circuit Court. He has a special tie to Obenshain. Cavedo, once a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, was the driver and confidant of Obenshain’s storied father, Dick, and was one of the last people to see alive the Republican U.S. Senate nominee before he died in a plane crash in Chesterfield County on Aug. 2, 1978.So there's one huge conflict of interest right there. When it comes to a contest, it gets even better:
In a contest, a candidate argues that the result of the election is incorrect because the election was improperly run. That, election lawyers in both parties say, is a very high standard. It requires clear evidence that the outcome should have been different because enough votes were not cast or improperly cast. This could put Obenshain crosswise with local registrars, since he would be directly challenging their administration of the election.So the person initiating this procedure is the chairman of the Senate committee that will decide if a contest is going forward. It's good to be the King.
The legislature serves as a court, hearing evidence and rendering a judgment.
One of the first steps in the process: a perusal of disputed ballots and protocols by the election committees of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and evenly split Virginia Senate. The Senate committee is chaired by a guy whose verbal cadence conjures Mister Rogers: Mark Obenshain.
Plus, when the full House and full Senate met to decide the election, they would convene in the House chamber in a session at which the House speaker — a Republican — would preside, giving Obenshain a parliamentary advantage.
Is this unprecedented?
No. It's happened before, the last time in 1979. That time, it was for a state Senate seat in a district that included Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Chaos defined Election Day. Voting machines in Norfolk broke down. Some ballots were marked on odd scraps of paper.
So the Republican candidate initiated the contest.
The Senate was controlled by Democrats at the time, and they closed ranks and voted for their own.
So you KNOW what will happen this time.