Your trusted source for contextualizing the news. Sign up for our daily newsletter.
Jennifer McClellan, a veteran state legislator, is projected to win a special election for Virginia’s 4th Congressional District, making her the first Black woman to represent the state in the U.S. House.
Early results show McClellan will easily defeat Republican Leon Benjamin for the seat of the late Rep. Don McEachin, her longtime mentor who died in November.
McClellan, 50, has served in the Virginia legislature since 2006, establishing a reputation as a measured negotiator and a leading voice on abortion rights, voting rights, public education and renewable energy. Last year, she ran unsuccessfully in the state’s Democratic primary for governor, vying to become the first woman in the state’s highest office.
In an interview with The 19th ahead of her December primary for the seat, McClellan said she was looking forward to bringing “a whole new perspective that has not had a voice in the Virginia delegation.” Her mother and the women on her mom’s side of the family were domestic workers with few labor protections; her great-grandfather had to take a literacy test and find three White people to vouch for him to register to vote, while her father paid poll taxes. McClellan was also the first Virginia House delegate to serve during a legislative session while pregnant.
Virginia’s 4th Congressional District is anchored in the state’s capital of Richmond, which McClellan represents in the Virginia Senate. It is not immediately clear when McClellan will assume her seat in Congress and cede her seat in the Virginia Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority that has served as a brick wall against Republican proposals coming from Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the GOP-controlled Virginia House.
- Previous Coverage:
McClellan will join 27 other Black women House members. She will represent a House district that was once home to the capital of the Confederacy, and that sent the state’s first Black man to Congress more than 130 years ago.
Just 52 Black women have ever served in the House, representing 22 states, according to the Pew Research Center. In the current Congress, just 18 states have a Black woman in their delegations. Virginia will make 19.