Chris Obenshain. Courtesy of the candidate.
Chris Obenshain. Courtesy of the candidate.

A thorough count of mail-in votes and provisional ballots in one of the most competitive House of Delegates races west of Richmond did not change the preliminary results of last week’s election in which R​​epublican Chris Obenshain defeated his Democratic opponent, Lily Franklin.

While Franklin managed to close the gap significantly — from a margin of 943 down to 183 votes, according to data from the Virginia Department of Elections — it wasn’t enough to push her over the edge. With all votes in, Obenshain topped Franklin with 50.31% to 49.57%. 

A former chief of staff of Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, Franklin called Obenshain to concede shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday. 

Obenshain, a Montgomery County prosecutor and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, will represent the newly created House District 41 in the new General Assembly, which reconvenes in January for its 2024 session. 

“The closeness of this election reflects the division we see across our nation,” Obenshain said in a Facebook post Monday. 

“My commitment to you is to work with members of both parties to find common ground and common sense solutions to the issues facing our commonwealth. On issues like growing our economy, protecting our communities, expanding our mental health resources, and improving education, I am certain that we can work together to build a stronger Virginia.”

Created as part of the redistricting approved by the Virginia Supreme Court in 2021, the 41st District 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, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project. 

Obenshain, 44, isn’t the first in his family to enter politics. 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.

Obenshain joined the U.S. Army Reserve in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, during which he worked on Capitol Hill for then-Sen. George Allen, R-Virginia. 

A graduate of Bridgewater College, Obenshain got his law degree at the University of Virginia and began 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, where he met his wife, Jennifer. 

The couple lives in Montgomery County with their two sons. 

The 41st District covers most of Montgomery County (but not Christiansburg), western Roanoke County, and the Bent Mountain area. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at or 804-822-1594.