RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin will set a special election to fill the U.S. House seat left vacant after the death of Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.).
McEachin, who was reelected less than three weeks ago, died at the age of 61 after a battle with colorectal cancer, according to a press release from his office on Monday night. McEachin has represented Virginia’s 4th Congressional District since 2017. He previously served in the General Assembly.
Youngkin, like several other state leaders, said Tuesday it was too early to discuss the upcoming election as Virginia mourns the sudden loss of the congressman.
While Virginians continue to honor McEachin’s legacy, conversations over who could take the seat are starting behind the scenes.
McEachin’s Chief of Staff Tara Rountree said their office will continue to serve Virginia’s 4th District until a new representative is elected.
Political Analyst Rich Meagher said McEachin’s death likely means Democrats will have an empty House seat when the new Congress convenes in January, giving a slim Republican majority a little more wiggle room.
The 4th district, which McEachin easily won in this year’s midterms, extends from Richmond down to the North Carolina line. Meagher expects it will stay blue in a special election.
“It does mean that a number of politicians in the Democratic Party particularly — because the seat is so strongly Democratic — will be jockeying for a chance to be that nominee for whenever the special election is set,” Meagher said.
One insider told 8News the short list of possible candidates for the special election includes: Del. Lamont Bagby (Henrico); Del. Jeff Bourne (Richmond); state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (Richmond); state Sen. Joe Morrissey (Richmond) and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. There may be others who emerge in the coming days.
“I think it’s a little too soon to talk about it, but there is no secret I’ve always wanted to follow in my big brother’s footsteps,” Del. Bagby said, referring to McEachin.
When asked about a potential bid, McClellan said she’s not ready for discussions about the special election.
“We’re mourning him right now and that is a conversation that probably will be had eventually but I’m not prepared to have it right now. I miss my friend and mentor. That’s all I’m focused on today,” McClellan said.
“It’s way too premature for me to say yay or nay,” Sen. Morrissey said. “I will say this. I love being in the [state] Senate. I love being able to do something substantive for Virginia, and I’m not so sure that being one of 435 members would allow me to be as effective.”
Del. Bourne told 8News he’s still “trying to process the immense loss of such a wonderful father, husband and public servant.”
Kevin Zeithaml, a spokesperson for Mayor Stoney’s campaign team, said a possible congressional bid “is not on the Mayor’s mind at all right now.”
“He’s mourning the loss of a giant in the Richmond community and, like the rest of the city, will be looking for ways to support the McEachin family and honor his memory in the coming weeks,” Zeithaml said.
Leon Benjamin, the Republican who McEachin defeated in the midterms, said he’s praying for McEachin’s family and hasn’t considered running in the special election but that he’s “keeping all options open.”
Under state law, the governor sets special elections to fill a U.S. House vacancy but isn’t under a specific deadline to do so.
Youngkin remembered McEachin as an “extraordinary public servant” on Tuesday, telling reporters at an event in northern Virginia that discussions about the special election would come but that his attention was on McEachin, his family and honoring the congressman’s legacy.
“We will make decisions with regards to the special election,” Youngkin said. “Today, we’re really focused on remembering the great contributions he [McEachin] made. And there are folks that I’m going to want to listen to as to the best time in order to call this. I want to make sure that Virginians are represented…but today’s a day to really focus on the congressman.”
Despite McEachin’s battle with cancer, the news of his sudden death surprised many. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, members of Virginia’s congressional delegation, state lawmakers and others shared statements remembering McEachin.
This story is developing. Stay with 8News for updates.