RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Democrat Jennifer McClellan won the special election for Virginia’s 4th Congressional District to succeed the late U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin and will become the first Black woman to represent the commonwealth in Congress.
McClellan, a sitting state senator, will serve the rest of Rep. McEachin’s fourth term. McEachin died in November at the age of 61 weeks after winning reelection.
“I cannot start without first paying tribute to our dear friend Donald McEachin,” McClellan said in her victory speech Tuesday night in Richmond. “I want to thank him for his service and thank Colette for sharing him with us and for giving me her blessing to embark on this journey to continue his legacy. He is with us in this room.”
McClellan’s campaign told 8News they don’t yet know when the congresswoman-elect will be sworn into office.
“I am ready to get to work,” McClellan said in her speech. “I have a little more work to do down the street, but I’m ready to fight for you in Congress for as long as you’ll have me.”
Similar to McEachin, McClellan defeated Republican Leon Benjamin, a pastor and Navy veteran who lost to Rep. McEachin twice, to secure the 4th Congressional District seat.
The Associated Press called the race for McClellan not long after polls closed at 7 p.m. According to results from the Virginia Department of Elections, McClellan has nearly 75% of the vote with 289 of 302 precincts in the district reporting.
Virginia’s 4th Congressional District, which McEachin represented since 2017, is anchored in the city of Richmond but extends down to the North Carolina border.
McClellan, a corporate attorney for Verizon in her 17th year in the General Assembly, first served in the Virginia House of Delegates before winning the state Senate seat McEachin held before he went to Congress.
During her time in the state legislature, McClellan was one of the key architects of Virginia’s own Voting Rights Act and championed legislation to expand reproductive rights.
“I’ve dedicated my life right here in Richmond to serving the community. I was raised on servant leadership and I took that legacy and the legacy of my parents and I decided that I wanted to work to make this country, this commonwealth, this city a better place,” McClellan said Tuesday night.
With the Richmond-area congressional district leaning blue, state Sen. McClellan (D-Richmond) was a heavy favorite to win the special election to fill McEachin’s seat. McClellan had won the primary for the Democratic nomination in a landslide, taking nearly 85% of the vote.
When she announced plans to run for the seat, McClellan acknowledged she had “big shoes” to fill and that she would continue to press on the issues McEachin advocated for while in Congress, including environmental justice and abortion access.
“Together, we can prove that when we come together and we care more about doing the work and solving problems than the sound bites, we can help people. We will make this commonwealth and this country a better place,” McClellan said during her speech Tuesday.
Rep. McEachin easily won reelection against Benjamin just a few weeks before his death after a battle with colorectal cancer, according to a press release. His office vowed to represent the district until a new representative was elected.
Benjamin, who did not concede to McEachin, admitted defeat in a statement Wednesday but did not mention McClellan. “While we worked very hard to bring conservative values to the 4th District, we did not prevail in turning the district red,” Benjamin wrote in his statement.
The race to fill McClellan’s Virginia Senate seat now kicks off. Multiple Democrats, including Dels. Dawn Adams (Richmond), Lamont Bagby (Henrico) and 4th District Democratic Committee Chair Alexsis Rodgers, have already put their names in the hat.