Obenshain bows out of Virginia governor race

Prominent Republican Mark Obenshain will not run for Virginia governor in 2017, AMI Newswire has confirmed.

Nick Collette, Obenshain's legislative director, told AMI Newswire the state senator intends to focus on his re-election bid this year, and that he will continue to build his private law practice.

Obenshain lost his 2013 bid for attorney general, but he has crushed all opponents in his Shenandoah Valley senate district. He took his state senate in 2004 with 68 percent of the vote. In 2007 he won re-election with 70 percent. In 2011, Obenshain ran unopposed. 

"It was a personal decision," Collette said of the presumptive front-runner's decision not to seek the governorship. "Mark also has a number of policy issues he wants to give his full focus to in the next session. But the re-election bid comes first."

Obenshain stirred controversy with a 2009 bill that would have required women to report miscarriages within 24 hours -- a proposal Obenshain said was a response to a case in which a Rockingham County college student disposed of her dead newborn in a dumpster after delivering it in a dorm bathroom. The woman, who claimed the child had been stillborn, was found guilty of a misdemeanor charge of disposing of a dead body. 

Obenshain ultimately withdrew the bill, but his opponent, Mark Herring, made effective use of the issue when the two ran for attorney general in 2013. Herring ultimately defeated Obenshain by 907 votes out of more than two million cast. 

The GOP does not lack other hopefuls for the top of the state ticket. According to the website Bearing Drift, Republican strategist Ed Gillespie, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate seat held by Democrat Mark Warner in 2014, will soon declare his candidacy.

Gillespie has not responded to a request for comment from AMI Newswire.