Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan prepares for a debate at Virginia Sate University in Petersburg, Va., Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) Jennifer McClellan
Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan prepares for a debate at Virginia Sate University in Petersburg, Va., Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

If elected, McClellan would be the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress.

After all 27,900 ballots were counted by hand, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan has been declared the winner of Tuesday’s primary to be the Democratic candidate for an upcoming February special election to fill the congressional seat left vacant by the recent death of Rep. Donald McEachin. 

Tuesday’s primary was the largest “firehouse primary” in Virginia’s history. McClellan won the Democratic nomination with 85% of the vote. State Sen. Joe Morrissey came in a distant second with 14%, while Tavorise Marks and Joe Preston each won less than 1% of primary ballots.

Tuesday’s “firehouse” primary was put together by the Virginia Democratic Party and is run differently than a state election board-run primary, requiring that ballots be counted by hand.

If elected to Congress, McClellan will bring with her many years of experience as a state legislator. She started out as a member of the House of Delegates in 2006 before being elected to the Virginia state Senate in 2017. She is also the vice chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Some of McClellan’s most significant legislative wins include ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, the passage of the Voting Rights Act of Virginia and the Reproductive Health Protection Act and the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act, helping to create a state-based health exchange under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), the creation of the Virginia School Construction Fund and Program, and working to address the school-to-prison pipeline.

Like McEachin, she also helped restore historic African American cemeteries in the commonwealth by expanding eligibility for state funding.

McClellan will face off against Republican Leon Benjamin in a special election on Feb. 21.