Updated April 3.
Chris Obenshain, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Montgomery County, has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination in the newly-drawn House of Delegates district that covers most of Montgomery County and parts of western Roanoke County.
The district, drawn as part of the redistricting approved by the Virginia Supreme Court in December, has no incumbent. An analysis filed by the two “special masters” — one Democratic, one Republican — who drew the maps used two prior sets of election results to rate the 41st House District as the most competitive district in the western third of Virginia. Based on the results from 2017 attorney general’s race, the special masters concluded the 41st District would be 50.6% Democratic and 49.4% Republican. Based on the results from the 2017 lieutenant governor’s race, the special masters rated the district as 51.2% Republican and 48.7% Democratic.
Virginia-based political analyst Chaz Nuttycombe, who specializes in state legislative elections, said in a tweet: “This district narrowly voted for Trump in 2020. Make no mistake, this is a Solid Republican district in 2023. It will be competitive when there’s a Republican in the White House again, so possibly 2025.”
Obenshain is the first candidate in either party to announce. The next elections aren’t scheduled until November 2023, although there is a lawsuit pending that seeks to have elections moved up to this November on the grounds that the current districts are now out of alignment with “one person, one vote” population requirements.
Obenshain grew up in Roanoke County, graduated from Cave Spring High School and Bridgewater College, and now lives in Blacksburg. He has worked as a prosecutor in Radford and worked eight years in the Virginia Attorney General’s office. His campaign bio also says that “In 2002, Chris enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve as a vehicle mechanic and tow truck operator for six years, attaining the rank of Sergeant. He was then selected for a commission in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, where he now serves at the rank of Major.”
In a statement issued by his campaign, Obenshain said: “Having grown up in Roanoke County, and now as a third-generation resident of Montgomery County, I have a deep affection and appreciation for this part of the Commonwealth. I look forward to traveling around this district over the next two years, listening to the voters, hearing their concerns, and building a campaign worthy of their support. “
Obenshain comes from a family long involved in Virginia politics. His uncle was the late Richad Obenshain, who was killed in a plane crash in 1978 during his campaign for U.S. Senate. State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham County, is one of his cousins.