State Sen. Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg formally kicked of his run for attorney general this morning at a news conference in Richmond, saying, “I will never back down when our liberties are on the line.”
“I want to be an attorney general who’s guided by this philosophy of preserving and expanding the realm of freedom in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Obenshain said at a Capitol Square news conference.
Obenshain and Del. Rob Bell of Albemarle County are battling for the Republican nomination, which will be decided at a state convention next year. Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk John Frey has withdrawn from the nomination contest.
Obenshain, 50, was elected to the Senate in 2003 and is chairman of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee. He was the Senate sponsor of the recently approved state constitutional amendment limiting the use of eminent domain (Bell sponsored the House version). He has been an outspoken supporter of charter schools and tax credits for contributions to private school scholarships for needy students.
And, Obenshain noted, he has compiled a legislative portfolio that is well-suited for the office he seeks.
“I’ve fought for our communities, sponsoring legislation to crack down on serious criminal offenders and providing law enforcement with the tools they need to keep our community safe, including the assurance of jail time for repeat offenders of protective orders, tougher sentences for meth dealers and repeat drug dealers, and mandatory life sentences for child rapists,” he said. “I’ve worked closely with Virginia’s last three elected attorneys general to implement their legislative priorities on child safety and cracking down on gang violence.”
One of those former attorneys general, Jerry Kilgore, was on hand to voice support for Obenshain.
“It matters deeply who serves as our Virginia attorney general,” said Kilgore, who held the office from 2002 to 2005. “If you want to know why it matters, all you need to do is look across the Potomac to Washington D.C. Our next attorney general will continue to reqauire the courage to stand up to an overreaching federal government and our next attorney general has to have the skill to prevail in those battles.”
Kilgore called Obenshain ” a talented attorney, an experienced litigator and a skillful manager” who “can hit the ground running” in the attorney general’s office.
Obenshain’s philosophy aligns him closely with incumbent Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who will battle Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. But Obenshain demurred when asked if he would take sides in that contest or the wide-open race fo the lieutenant govenrnor nomination.
“I’m running my own campaign and I’m going to keep my eye on the prize,” he said.
Obenshain also talked about the influence of his late father, Richard Obenshain, who was the GOP’s candidate for attorney general in 1969. Richard Obenshain chaired the state Republican Party in the 1970s and helped build it into a viable force in state politics. He won the party’s U.S. Senate nomination in a memorable 1978 convention, but died in a plane crash two months later.
Mark Obenshain recalled a handwritten note that his mother later found in his father’s desk. In it, his father wrote: “The most important goal in my life is to have a meaningful impact on preserving — and expanding — the realm of personal freedom in the life of this nation.”
“That was my father’s vision and his legacy, and I’ve made it mine,” Obenshain said today.
On his Facebook page, Obenshain has posted a video clip from the 1978 GOP convention. You can watch it here.
– Michael Sluss