Razor-Thin Margin Separates Candidates for Virginia Attorney General as Recount Looms

Recount appears likely

Election Day came and went with no clear winner in Virginia's attorney general race, but by late Wednesday afternoon, the gap was widening slightly in favor of Republican Mark Obenshain.

But with a razor-thin margin separating him from Democrat Mark Herring, a recount is likely in the cards.

With nearly all precincts reporting unofficial returns, just 1,157 votes were separating the candidates by 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. But the difference was larger than a 319-vote spread early Wednesday.

Neither candidate has claimed victory or conceded.

"Since the polls closed, we have continued to gain votes to the point where, according to counts, only a few votes separate myself and my opponent," Herring said early Wednesday. "We want to make sure all precincts are accounted for and results are accurate, all absentee ballots are counted and every Virginian who cast a provisional ballot has their voice heard."

He told reporters earlier at the Democrats' election night party that the contest would go to a state-funded recount because the margin was so narrow, although not all provisional ballots have been counted yet.

Virginia election officials will certify the election results within the next day or two, and once that happens, if that margin is is within half a percentage point, the commonwealth will finance a recount.

If the margin is more than that, but less than one percentage point, the trailing candidate can demand a recount at his or her own expense.

On Wednesday morning, that margin was just 0.01 percent, but by late in the afternoon, it had grown to 0.05 percent.

"The race is far from over and we're going to make sure that we follow the process and make sure every single vote is counted," Herring said.

Obenshain was the GOP's only hope of avoiding a Democratic sweep of the top three statewide offices after Terry McAuliffe won the governor's race and state Sen. Ralph Northam was elected lieutenant governor.

The candidates are seeking to succeed Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who chose to run for governor rather than seek re-election.

The attorney general is essentially the CEO of the state government law office, supervising more than 400 lawyers and support staff. The position also is historically a stepping stone to a run for governor.

During the campaign, Herring, 52, sought to portray Obenshain as a Cuccinelli clone, saying the Republican would pursue an extreme social agenda if elected. Herring, unlike the two Republicans, supports abortion rights and gay marriage. He also has been an advocate of tighter gun restrictions.

Obenshain, 51, steered away from hot-button social issues, pledging to protect Virginians from child predators, elder abusers and sex traffickers.

Obenshain, of Harrisonburg, had appeared to be the front-runner based on exit polls Tuesday, but Herring was able to pick up votes in Northern Virginia and did particularly well in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County and his home base of Loudoun County.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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