John Whitbeck, chairman of the 10th Congressional District Republican Committee, announced Monday night he'll seek the Republican nomination to succeed attorney general-elect Mark Herring in the Senate of Virginia.
Whitbeck, however, said he's still working to ensure that Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain is the next attorney general of Virginia, despite the Virginia Board of Elections today certifying that Herring defeated Obenshain by 165 votes in the 2013 attorney general's race that saw more than 2.2 million ballots cast.
" ... as Mark [Obenshain] agrees, we need to be prepared to run this campaign depending on what happens with the recount,” Whitbeck said in a prepared statement.
On Saturday, Northern Virginia Democrats elected Leesburg attorney Jennifer Wexton to be their nominee in the 33rd District, which spans portions of Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
A date for the 33rd Senate District special election has yet to be set.
Whitbeck, also a local attorney, said he's running "for the state Senate to ensure Obamacare is not expanded in Virginia, to make sure tax dollars taken from our region for transportation stay in our region, and that our children have access to a world-class education."
In 2011, Whitbeck lost the Republican primary for the House of Delegates 10th District seat to incumbent Randy Minchew.
Whitbeck made headlines in the final months of the 2013 election season when, during an event for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, he made what many observers considered an anti-Semitic joke.
Said Whitbeck at the Sept. 17 rally in Sterling: “ … when the pope is elected, the head of the Jewish faith goes to the Vatican and brings a ceremonial piece of paper. It's very old and it dates back hundreds of years, and he comes into the pope's office and he ceremonially hands the piece of paper to the pope, the new pope. And then the new pope ceremonially rejects it. And the head of the Jewish faith leaves . . . Well, this time around, the pope said: 'I gotta find out what's on this piece of paper.' So he actually takes it from the head of the Jewish faith, he opens it and he looks at it, and he closes it ... and his Jewish counterpart says 'what was it?' And he says, 'well, that was the bill for the Last Supper.'”
The next day, Whitbeck said he "did not tell an anti-Semitic joke."
"I told a joke I heard from a priest at a church service," he added.
Several days later, Whitbeck offered a quick apology on the 10th Congressional District website, stating: "Earlier this week, I made a lighthearted attempt at humor to which some have taken offense. It was certainly not my intent to offend anyone and I sincerely apologize to those who were.”
Whitbeck has served as a substitute judge for five years, an adjunct professor at George Mason Law School and the president of the Lansdowne Homeowner’s Association.
This story has been updated from an earlier version.