Republican Chris Obenshain on Tuesday appears to have defeated his Democratic opponent Lily Franklin in the most competitive House of Delegates race west of Richmond this fall.
According to unofficial numbers released by the Virginia Department of Elections, Obenshain won the open seat in the newly drawn 41st House District with 52% of the vote, a comfortable 4% lead over Franklin, who by 11 p.m. had received a total of 11,408 votes, compared to Obenshain’s 12,351, with all but the provisional ballots counted. That’s a margin of 943 votes.
The Montgomery County registrar says there are 955 provisional ballots, but it’s unclear how many of those are in this district. The Roanoke County registrar could not be reached. However, mail ballots can still be counted if they arrive by Monday.
“We’re withholding any statements about the outcome of this race until all the ballots are counted,” said Franklin’s campaign manager, Eleanor Roy. “Unofficial results show that there are more than 2,000 provisional, uncured mail ballots, and unreturned mail ballots in the two counties that HD-41 covers.”
Obenshain on Tuesday lost in Montgomery County 45% to 55%, but he trounced Franklin in Roanoke County, 68% to 32%.
Created as part of the redistricting approved by the Virginia Supreme Court in 2021, the 41st District has no incumbent. It covers most of Montgomery County, except for Christiansburg, and parts of western Roanoke County. In the 2021 gubernatorial election, Republican Glenn Youngkin carried the district with 56% of the vote.
A Montgomery County prosecutor and a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, Obenshain, 44, hails from a political family. His father, Joe Obenshain, ran for state Senate in 2003. His uncle Richard “Dick” Obenshain was running as the Republican nominee in Virginia for the U.S. Senate when he was killed in an airplane crash in 1978. His cousin Mark Obenshain is a state senator from Harrisonburg.
Chris Obenshain headed to Capitol Hill to work for then-Sen. George Allen, R-Virginia, after graduating from Bridgewater College, and he joined the U.S. Army Reserve in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as an enlisted soldier, working as a mechanic.
He kept with it through law school at the University of Virginia and while beginning his career as a prosecutor in the New River Valley. From 2010 until 2018 he lived in Richmond, serving as an assistant attorney general under Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
There, he met his wife, Jennifer. The couple has two young sons and resides in Montgomery County.
Obenshain won the Republican nomination for House District 41 at a mass meeting held at the CrossPointe Conference Center in Christiansburg in May, defeating Lowell Bowman, a contractor and small-business owner.
During his campaign, Obenshain ran on Republican principles, including the protection of Second Amendment rights, fiscal conservatism and additional tax relief. At a candidate forum hosted by Cardinal News in Blacksburg in October, he said that he supported Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal that would limit access to abortions in Virginia after 15 weeks, but he did not say whether he would support legislation that would go further.
Franklin, a former high school math teacher and former chief of staff for Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, made news on the campaign trail when she joined Trish White-Boyd, the Democratic nominee in Senate District 4, in her call for eliminating the car tax.