Voters in Virginia’s 4th Congressional District will pick their next representative Tuesday in a special election that could make history in the commonwealth.
State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, the Democratic nominee in this heavily Democratic district, would become the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress if she wins. She’s facing Republican Leon Benjamin in the race to fill the term of the late Rep. Donald McEachin, who died a few weeks after winning reelection in November.
The district, which includes the city of Richmond, would’ve voted for President Joe Biden by more than 35 percentage points in 2020. McEachin won a fourth term in November with 65% of the vote. Tuesday’s election is unlikely to affect the balance of power in the US House, which Republicans control after winning a narrow majority last fall. However, a McClellan victory would set another record for the number of women serving in Congress (150) and in the House (125), according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. She would also set a record for the number of Black women in the House – 28.
McClellan has both outraised and outspent Benjamin, according to their respective campaigns’ pre-special election reports filed on February 9.
Under Virginia state law, there was no state-run primary for this special election, so the parties were responsible for selecting their own nominees.
McClellan won the Democratic nomination in December, defeating state Sen. Joe Morrissey and two other candidates in a “firehouse primary,” which was conducted by party officials across a handful of pop-up voting locations in the Richmond-area district. McClellan has had the support of party leaders and groups ranging from the political arm of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to the moderate-backing Democratic Majority for Israel PAC. Democratic members of the commonwealth’s congressional delegation endorsed her, as did Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and other local officials.
McClellan, who has served in the state legislature since 2006 and finished third in the 2021 Democratic primary for governor, succeeded McEachin in the state Senate and spoke of her friendship with him when announcing her campaign.
Benjamin, a Navy veteran and pastor, won the GOP nomination at a party canvass. This is his third bid for the seat after losing to McEachin in 2020 and in 2022.
Polls open at 6 a.m. ET and close at 7 p.m. ET.