By Mark Grandstaff
Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), running for Attorney General of Virginia, sees the office as a platform to oppose the Obama administration.
“If the president is not going to be restrained by Congress, then it is up to the attorneys general to stand up and to take the fight to the administration,” Obenshain said at Monday’s Founding Fathers Republican Women meeting in Culpeper.
He spoke to a crowd of about 20 in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. They were a receptive crowd. Its members oppose Agenda 21, a non-binding, voluntary United Nations plan promoting “sustainable development.” Their website blog rails against increased government surveillance, reported by the American Civil Liberties Union, and casts doubt on Obama’s credentials and basic citizenship.
Obenshain, whose Senate district includes all of Rappahannock County, cast himself as a good friend and ideological successor to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who will run this year for governor of Virginia.
Obenshain praised Cuccinelli as one of the first attorneys general to fight against Obama’s health-care reform laws, which Obenshain called “the Obamacare abomination.”
In a 45-minute speech, Obenshain made the obstruction of perceived federal encroachment the biggest plank of his campaign platform.
“If we do not get back out and continue this fight, we might as well hang it all up,” Obenshain said. “This is a fight that we have been fighting for generations, indeed, for centuries, and it is not over.”
Obenshain touted his legislative accomplishments, among them a senate bill approved in a tie-breaking vote by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling earlier this month to require photo identification in order to vote.
He voted for the so-called Boneta Bill. He opposes gun control efforts in the wake of last year’s mass killing in Newton, Conn. and similar shootings in other parts of the nation, efforts which he calls a “misguided response to recent events.”
Campaign literature at the FFRW meeting lists among his accolades a Legislator of the Year award from the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association. The pamphlet promised Obenshain will “protect our neighborhoods and communities.”
In his speech, Obenshain did not mention his priorities in working alongside law enforcement as an attorney general.
In an interview with the Times-Democrat, Obenshain said he agreed with Cuccinelli’s assessment that gangs and organized crime are the top threat facing Virginia right now.
Obenshain said he wants to push for more powers for multi-jurisdictional grand juries, expanding their authority to all violent crimes, not just gangs and drug offenses.
Those grand juries cross jurisdictional lines because drugs and organized crime do not respect political boundaries, Obenshain said.
If Obenshain wins the June 11 Republican primary and the Nov. 5 general election, he will take office at a point when the potential use of unmanned, flying drones by law enforcement will come under intense scrutiny.
On Feb. 4, the city of Charlottesville passed a resolution banning the use of drones within the city or the admission as evidence of information gathered by drones.
“I oppose the routine deployment of drones for the enforcement of regulatory laws,” Obenshain said.
As an example, he said he opposed the use of drones to enforce EPA regulations.
Obenshain said he wouldn’t rule out the use of drones, but said it was important to respect citizen rights and protect them from routine surveillance and privacy invasion without undermining a potential tool for law enforcement in emergencies.
“Our founding fathers would have never dreamed of the possibility of unmanned flying devices that could be used to somehow invade the privacy of their citizens,” Obenshain said.
Obenshain got a warm response from FFRW members and other guests.
“I think he actually persuaded some voters tonight,” said FFRW member and recently-elected Culpeper Supervisor Alexa Fritz.
Clive Richmond, of Culpeper, said Obenshain is an effective speaker, and said he agreed with almost everything Obenshain said.
Richmond said that his dilemma – and the dilemma facing other voters like him – is that Obenshain’s opponent in the Republican primary, Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), is also an affable man with an anti-federal ideology.
“It’s going to be a difficult choice for all of us,” Richmond said. “It just comes down to who’s going to garner the most support.”