- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Democrat Mark R. Herring declared victory in the Virginia attorney general’s race Tuesday, after opening a triple-digit lead in the final hours before localities certified their results and submitted them to the State Board of Elections.

But the race between Mr. Herring and Republican Mark D. Obenshain appeared to be far from over, with a recount virtually certain after state elections officials certify the results in the next two weeks.

That didn’t stop Mr. Herring from declaring himself the winner.

“Voters in Virginia have spoken, their voices have been heard and I am honored to have won their votes and their trust to become Virginia’s next Attorney General,” Mr. Herring said in a statement.

A victory for Mr. Herring means Democrats sweep the top three statewide offices in Virginia government just four years after they were similarly shut out by Republicans. It’s the first time since 1989 that Democrats have swept the positions.

Mr. Obenshain on Tuesday night was not willing to concede the race.

“At this stage, we are in the closest statewide election in Virginia history,” he said in a statement that implied that legal action could be a part of is strategy. “We owe it to the people of Virginia to make sure we get it right, and that every legitimate vote is counted and subject to uniform rules.”

Mr. Herring, who had a 117-vote lead Tuesday morning, solidified his position after Fairfax County elections officials completed their tally of hundreds of outstanding provisional ballots.

Officials accepted 271 of 493 provisional ballots cast in the county, with Mr. Herring taking 160 of the votes and Mr. Obenshain collecting 103. The remaining ballots did not specify a candidate in the attorney general’s race.

After other jurisdictions submitted their totals, an unofficial count gave Mr. Herring a lead of about 163 votes late Tuesday.

Fairfax County elections officials spent much of the weekend adjudicating the provisional ballots, which are for voters who went to the polls on Election Day but had an issue with their voting and could not cast a regular ballot.

Seth Stark, chairman of the Fairfax Electoral Board, said in the past 10 years Virginia has seen some close races, “but not quite this close.”

“We were extremely deliberate as we went through this process,” Mr. Stark said. “It was an extremely thorough process, and it was an extremely close race.”

The bloc of provisional ballots was the last outstanding group of untallied votes from the Nov. 5 election and bolstered Mr. Herring’s chances of holding the lead through the 11:59 p.m. deadline for localities to submit their counts.

After other jurisdictions submitted their totals, an unofficial count gave Mr. Herring a lead of about 163 votes late Tuesday.

The state board has until Nov. 25 to certify election results.

No matter which side wins, the race was almost certain to be headed to a recount. Recounts are not automatic in Virginia but can be requested in contests decided by a margin of a half percent or less.

The margin on Tuesday was less than .01 percent.

The Democrat took the lead after the state elections board updated figures from Richmond, where Republicans sought a review of some heavily Democratic precincts and elections personnel on Monday tallied ballots from a voting machine that had not been counted.

The race has shifted back and forth in the week since Election Day, with the candidates at one point separated by just 17 votes out of 2.2 million ballots cast. The fluctuations occurred as officials accounted for a series of routine adjustments and simple human errors that changed the vote tally.

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