It’s a rough day for Old Dominion Republicans. Early in the afternoon, reports started trickling in about what many had suspected: The November elections ended in the worst-case scenario, and Democrat Mark Herring had beaten his Republican state-senate colleague Mark Obenshain for the attorney general’s seat.
Obenshain conceded the race shortly after 3 p.m. today, wrapping a bruising election season in Virginia.
“It’s become apparent that our campaign is going to come up a few votes short,” he said, adding that he was proud of his campaign’s positivity and that he called Herring earlier today to congratulate him on the win.
Losing a state attorney-general spot might not seem like a devastating defeat in and of itself. But Obenshain’s loss gives Democrats their first sweep of top statewide offices in the state in more than 40 years. On top of that, Republicans have held the attorney general’s seat since 1993.
Perhaps worse, the loss deprives the Virginia GOP of any sort of Moses figure to lead them out of a tough election cycle. Obenshain was in a way state Republicans’ last hope — their final chance to come away from November with a big win.
“You don’t have a leader,” says Larry Sabato, director of UVA’s Center for Politics. “Their bench is empty.”
That’s not to say this is the state party’s Ragnarök. Republicans hold eight of Virginia’s eleven congressional seats, and they have a substantial majority in the state house. And if Republicans win just one of the state-senate seats vacated by the Democrats elected lieutenant governor and attorney general this fall, they’ll have a majority in that chamber as well.