Virginia’s newest member of the U.S. Congress is Jennifer McClellan, whose historic election Tuesday night gives her the important distinction of being the first-ever Black woman elected in Virginia to the U.S. House of Representatives.
McClellan won the special election to fill the U.S. Congressional seat of late Rep. Donald McEachin, who died in November following complications from cancer weeks after he was reelected.
The Democrat who served in Virginia’s General Assembly for 18 years trounced her Republican opponent Leon Benjamin with nearly 75% of the vote and 95% of the precincts returning votes, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported.
McClellan vowed to serve her time in Congress just like McEachin, who she has previously described as a political mentor.
“I will carry on his legacy,” McClellan told supporters after her victory was declared.
“We’ve done a lot of good here in Richmond in the state house,” McClellan added. “Whether it was passing the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, passing the Virginia Clean Economy Act, passing the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights – all of that work needs to be done in Washington. Just as I worked to carry those across the finish line, I will work to do the same in Congress.”
The timing of McClellan’s win during Black History Month and days before Women’s History Month couldn’t have been more significant.
“It’s time for a Black woman’s voice to be heard in the Virginia congressional delegation, and the perspective that brings,” McClellan said back when she declared her candidacy for McEachin’s seat.
McClellan previously ran to be Virginia’s governor in an effort to replace Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, whose tenure was marked by a blackface scandal. She spoke with NewsOne in 2021 about her historic gubernatorial candidacy.
“While my candidacy is historic, this isn’t a moment about me,” McClellan told NewsOne at the time. “This is a movement about the future Virginia that will emerge from these crises stronger and more united than ever. I’m honored and excited that a little girl who grew up in Virginia from parents who grew up in the Depression can lead that healing.”
McClellan added: “At my core, I am a servant leader who sees pain and wants to heal it, sees problems and wants to fix them. Virginia really is, like our country, we’re at a crossroads of four crises. The worst health pandemic in 100 years, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, reckoning with racial injustice, and a lot of people who have lost faith in government’s ability to understand their problems, let alone solve them. I’m running because I hear the call to help people and lead us through these crises in a way that brings us together, and gives hope, and addresses inequity, and begins to heal from 400 years of trauma that has all culminated up to this point.”
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