At a press conference in Richmond moments ago, late on the third day of a three-day "recount" process in Virginia, state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R) conceded this razor-thin race against state Sen. Mark Herring (D) for state Attorney General.
Herring will replace VA's outgoing, far right Republican AG Ken Cuccinelli who lost his own battle for the Governor's office last month.
Obenshain's concession this afternoon comes after what had previously appeared to be the closest statewide race in history. Just 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast had separated the two when the November 5th race was certified by the State Board of Elections late last month. But, by yesterday, Herring's lead had widened to more than 800 votes after two days of what passes for a "recount" in VA (there is no "recount" on touch-screen electronic voting systems used by most voters in the state and most of the paper ballot localities simply re-run the bulk of paper ballots through optical-scan systems again, as per state election code.)
Obenshain's decision means that Democrats will take control of all three statewide offices --- Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General --- for the first time in the Old Dominion since 1969 and the first time in twenty years that a Democrat will control the AG's office there.
It also means that a potentially divisive election contest --- described by some as the "nuclear option" --- will not be invoked by the Republican candidate. Once the "recount" is fully complete on Friday, and all of the very few "challenged ballots" are adjudicated by a three-judge special recount panel in Richmond, Obenshain would have had until Monday to file a contest. Unlike similar post-recount contests elsewhere, in Virginia the matter is not decided by a court of a law, but rather by a majority vote of a joint session of the state legislature, which is currently dominated by Republicans.
With both candidates currently serving as state Senators, a special election to replace either winner of the AG race was going to happen no matter the outcome of the "recount". The only question was which state Senator would need to be replaced. Obenshain's district is believed to be solidly Republican and likely would have stayed that way had he won the AG election. Herring's district, however, is currently seen as a toss-up. While the VA House is predominantly Republican, a GOP victory in the special election to replace Herring in the state Senate would swing the balance of that chamber over to Republicans as well.
Given the way Virginia forces the majority of voters to vote on 100% unverifiable electronic voting systems, and that the majority of votes cast on paper ballots are first tallied and then "recounted" by electronic optical-scan computers (either correctly or incorrectly, who knows?), we'll never know who voters really wanted to win this year's AG race. But this, apparently, is, as they say, "close enough for government work". Voters in VA deserve, and should demand, a much more transparent and overseeable system for the most crucial element of their system of self-governance.
Barring any surprises, Herring will be sworn into office in January, along with Democratic Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and Lt. Governor-elect Ralph Northam.
Previously related #VAAG coverage at The BRAD BLOG...