RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico) has dropped out of the race to fill the late Rep. Donald McEachin’s seat in Congress and is endorsing state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, his campaign spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

Del. Bagby’s decision comes days after he announced he was seeking the Democratic nomination in the Feb. 21 special election for Virginia’s 4th Congressional District seat.

“I made this decision because I believe it’s in the best interests of the voters of this district to step aside and ensure we have the right representation in Congress,” Bagby said in a statement.

The move leaves a handful of Democrats running for the nomination, including two lawmakers seen as leading contenders: Sen. McClellan and state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond). They both announced their bids for the Richmond-area congressional seat on Tuesday.

During his run, Bagby picked up endorsements from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Del. Luke Torian (D-Prince William). Support from Bagby, the chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, could help McClellan separate herself from the rest of the field.

Joseph Preston, an attorney and former Democratic state delegate, and Tavorise Marks, a civil rights advocate and entrepreneur who previously ran for the House of Delegates, also announced plans to run for the seat.

Elliott Cox-Wardrick, a social worker and company owner, told 8News he filed paperwork to run, and his campaign is collecting signatures ahead of the Friday deadline. “I’ve always thought of running for office,” he said, adding that mental health would be his focus if elected.

“Just as I am clear eyed in my decision to step aside, I also firmly believe that there is only one candidate in this race fit to replace my late mentor, Donald McEachin,” Bagby continued. “That person is Senator Jennifer McClellan.”

Notable Democrats in Virginia’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Tim Kaine, U.S. Reps. Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton, have endorsed McClellan. On Thursday, Stoney put his support behind McClellan as well.

The state party’s 4th Congressional District Committee voted Monday to hold a firehouse primary — a primary run by the party — on Dec. 20 to select the candidate.

Registered voters in the 4th District who consider themselves a Democrat can go to one of eight locations from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice during the one-day primary. These locations include:

  • Brunswick Conference Center – 100 Athletic Field Rd, Lawrenceville, Virginia 23868
  • Dogtown Dance Studio – 109 W 15th St, Richmond, VA 23224
  • Diversity Richmond – 1407 Sherwood Ave, Richmond, VA 23220
  • IBEW Local 666 – 1390 E Nine Mile Rd, Highland Springs VA 23075
  • Tabernacle Baptist Church – 444 Halifax St, Petersburg, VA 23803
  • Meadowdale Library – 4301 Meadowdale Blvd, North Chesterfield, VA 23234
  • Surry Parks & Recreation Center – 205 Enos Farm Drive, Surry, VA 23883
  • Charles City Government Center – 10900 Courthouse Road, Charles City, VA 23030

Voters need to bring one form of identification required by the state before casting a ballot in the primary.

Republicans are holding a party canvass — essentially a party-run primary — with ranked-choice voting to pick the GOP nominee. It will be held at the Life Christian Academy (1221 Boulevard, Colonial Heights, VA 23834) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 17.

Republicans Leon Benjamin, who lost to McEachin in November, and Dale Sturdifen, a former Mecklenburg County School Board chairman, are running to be the GOP nominees.

Voters list candidates on their ballots in order of preference for the ranked-choice voting method. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the first-place votes, they are declared the winner of the race.

If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and voters who had that person as their top pick will have their next choice counted during the next round. The process continues until a candidate receives a majority of the votes.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.