It may seem hard to believe for a small district in a first-world country in 2023, but it took almost one week after election day to declare a final winner in one of Virginia’s closest races, a district which straddles the Roanoke and New River Valleys.
The District covers about half of Montgomery County, including Blacksburg and Shawsville, and the western part of Roanoke County, with parts of Catawba, Glenvar, Windsor Hills and Cave Spring.
In one of the narrowest margins of the election, Republican Chris Obenshain barely edged out Democrat Lily Franklin in the newly-created 41st House of Delegates district.
As stated here, as of Nov. 10, Obenshain had a narrow lead of 943. However, Montgomery County stated 955 provisional ballots to process on Nov. 13. Moreover, a Franklin campaign spokesperson claimed some 2,000 provisional, uncured mail ballots, and unreturned mail ballots were still to be counted.
On Nov. 13, the final tallies were calculated and Obenshain maintained his victory, albeit by a smaller margin. As reported on the official State Elections website, Obenshain eked out a win with 12,529 votes (50.31%) over Franklin’s 12,346 (49.57%). Considering each House district has some 80,000 residents, Obenshain’s winning margin of 183 is tiny.
Although a squeaker, it wasn’t the closest General Assembly race last week. In the competitive 82nd House District around Petersburg, Republican Kim Taylor edged out Democrat Kim Adams by 74 votes.
When people tell you “My vote doesn’t count,” it may be helpful to remind them of close outcomes like these.
Because District 41 includes Virginia Tech and state law now allows day-of voter registration, many were wondering if enough Tech students would be motivated sufficiently to give Franklin a victory, a Democrat rarity in the western half of Virginia. However, as evidence of the Republican juggernaut that Roanoke County is becoming, Obenshain won 68% of the votes in the Roanoke County precincts in District 41, thus (barely) overcoming Franklin’s performance around Blacksburg.
Gun control advocate David Hogg recently campaigned for Franklin on the Tech campus. As popular as his message may have been among left-wing students, one can speculate if his visit also drove out more GOP votes among 2A supporters in the more rural parts of the district.
Expressing rage about Franklin’s narrow loss, Democrat Jade Harris, who failed in her bid against Chris Head (R) for the State Senate, posted this to X, formerly known as Twitter:
“Remember what I said about lack of support??? 183 (expletive) votes. This was a winnable seat because you had a stellar candidate willing to put the work in and the powers that be blew it off like they always do.”
The official Obenshain Facebook page posted this victory announcement:
“Chris Obenshain officially declared victory in Virginia House of Delegates District 41, defeating Democrat Lily Franklin. Today’s outcome comes after election officials in Roanoke County and Montgomery County had the opportunity to thoroughly count every ballot including mail-in and provisional ballots.
“‘Thanks to all of the voters who put their trust in me to represent the 41st House District. Serving you is the honor of my life,’ said Obenshain. ‘As I pledged during this campaign, I’ll go to work right away to represent the people of Southwest Virginia.’
“‘The closeness of this election reflects the division we see across our Nation. 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. I look forward to that work and will always be available to you to hear your thoughts and feedback.'”
Posting to X at 9:19 pm on Nov. 13, Franklin tweeted: “This tweet is limited to 180 characters – 3 shy of the # of votes I lost by. I can’t thank folks enough for all the support our campaign received in the last year. (More to come on that later!)
“One thing is for sure: HD-41 refused to be overlooked. We’ll keep fighting in SWVA.”
Franklin has been legislative aide for Del. Salam “Sam” Rasoul (D-Roanoke City). With Franklin’s loss and Trish White-Boyd’s loss to Sen. David Suetterlein in the wake of Sen. John Edward’s retirement, Rasoul will be the only Democrat in the General Assembly from west of Charlottesville.