Two Republicans running in the November election sought voters’ support Saturday at the Bassett Heritage Festival.
Les Adams, who is seeking the 16th District House seat currently held by Del. Don Merricks, and State Sen. Mark Obenshain, who hopes to be Virginia’s next attorney general, both participated in Saturday’s parade.
Obenshain, of Harrisonburg, said if he is elected on Nov. 5, he will focus on keeping Virginians safe and on helping to create jobs by fighting job-killing energy policies in Washington D.C., such as those governing the coal industry.
“I’ve practiced law for 27 years and I manage two law firms,” Obenshain said. The Attorney General’s Office “is an area that I feel we can make a difference” in helping bring jobs back to Virginia.
Another priority is establishing an Elder Abuse Prevention Center in the Attorney General’s Office to help investigate and prosecute elder abuse, he said.
Also, Obenshain said he would work to end human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise, stealing children and forcing them into a life of slavery and prostitution,” Obenshain said. He estimated that 100,000 American children — with an average age of 13 — are engaged in the sex trade.
“They are recruited by gangs in schools, in shopping malls, at truck stops, on Facebook” and other means, Obenshain said. Gang members have figured out that human trafficking is more profitable than selling illegal drugs, he said.
Human trafficking has become “the second-largest criminal industry in the world, and it’s still growing,” he said.
But, it is not a stand-alone felony offense, and if elected, “I will advocate for legislation making human trafficking a stand-alone felony,” he said.
He also wants to add the names of people engaging in commercial sex with a minor to the sex offender registry, extend asset forfeiture laws to human trafficking, ensure victim compensation, establish a human trafficking task force to help prosecutors, produce educational materials and review policies on an ongoing basis, he said.
Obenshain’s father, Richard “Dick” Obenshain, was chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia from 1972 until 1976, when he was appointed co-chairman of the Republican National Committee.
The elder Obenshain ran for Congress in 1964, Virginia attorney general in 1969 and U.S. Senate in 1978. While returning home from a campaign trip in the northern Shenandoah Valley on Aug. 2, 1978, Obenshain died in a plane crash near his home in Chesterfield County. Obenshain’s mother Helen Obenshain went on to serve as Virginia’s Republican National Committeewoman.
The younger Obenshain was elected to the state Senate in 2003. He serves on five committees: Privileges and Elections, which he chairs; Courts of Justice; Commerce and Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Rules, according to his online bio.
He and his wife Suzanne have two children, Anne Tucker and Sam, both of whom are attending Virginia universities. The Obenshains are members of Harrisonburg’s First Presbyterian Church.
Adams, 38, is a partner in the Chatham law practice of Adams Elmore and Fisk PLC. He formerly was an assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Pittsylvania County.
A Southside native and small business owner, Adams said if elected to the House, he will work to create jobs in the area by unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit and reducing burdens on job creators.
“I believe that government doesn’t create jobs; hard-working Americans create jobs,” Adams said. “I’ll fight to make it easier for local businesses to grow, and I’ll actively recruit new employers to our area.”