Seesaw attorney general race goes to provisional ballots

By Steve Szkotak — Associated Press

RICHMOND — One week after Election Day, Virginia’s seesaw race for attorney general was still undecided Tuesday as local elections officials continued to certify provisional ballots.

The State Board of Elections had Democrat Mark R. Herring with a 117-vote lead over Republican Mark R. Obenshain, who carried a slight lead over Herring until Monday. Tuesday was the deadline to count provisional ballots, but even when that was done, a recount seemed almost certain.

Neither Obenshain nor Herring were giving an inch, with spokesmen for both men confident their candidate would prevail. The State Board of Elections has until Nov. 25 to certify the results, and a petition for a recount must be submitted within 10 calendar days.

Virginia does not provide for an automatic recount.

Many of the provisional ballots had been counted by Tuesday, but Fairfax County had yet to certify nearly 500 disputed ballots. Election officials said they expected to complete that count by late in the day.

Since election night, Herring has been chipping away at Obenshain’s lead.

Saturday, Fairfax County tallied 3,000 votes from a district that had undercounted absentee ballots, with two-thirds of the votes going to Herring. Then, an update of voting in Richmond precincts put Herring on top on Monday.

A spokesman for the Herring campaign said “we feel very good about the position we’re in right now.”

“We have no idea how the votes are going to break down in Fairfax,” Kevin O’Holleran said. “It’s a locality we won, I think, 60-40.”

His counterpart with the Obenshain campaign expressed a similar sentiment on the statewide finals.

“We are confident that we will prevail,” Paul Logan said. “We’re going to wait until the State Board of Elections finishes its tabulations and make sure that every legitimate vote is counted.”

Of the 2.2 million ballots cast Nov. 5, Herring and Obsenshain were 0.23 percent of a full percentage point apart on Tuesday. A candidate who loses by less than one-half of full percent can seek a recount at taxpayer expense. The candidate must foot the bill for a recount if the margin of his loss is between one-half and 1 percent.

Obenshain and Herring are state senators. Obenshain represents the Harrisonburg area while Herring represents Loudoun County.

Both are seeking to succeed Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who lost his bid for governor.

Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap.