Democratic State Sen. Jennifer McClellan Faces Republican Leon Benjamin in Special Election to Succeed Rep. Don McEachin

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, inserts her ballot in a voting machine at an early voting location in Richmond, Va., Saturday, May 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Meghin Moore

February 21, 2023

Months after November’s general election, voters in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District are once again voting for their congressional representative, following the death of Rep. Donald McEachin late last year, shortly after he’d been reelected to a fourth term.

Tuesday, February 21, marks a special election in Virginia between Democratic candidate Jennifer McClellan and Republican Leon Benjamin for the state’s fourth congressional district. The election could be potentially historic, although it will not change the balance of power in the Republican-controlled House. 

In December, state Senator McClellan ran in the highest-turnout “firehouse primary” in the commonwealth’s history, winning the Democratic nomination with 85% of the vote. Her opponent, Leon Benjamin, previously ran and lost in the November 2022 general election.

If elected, McClellan would become the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress. Her win would also mark a new record for the number of Black women serving in the House of Representatives. She would also bring her experience as a state legislator to the national level. She got her start in Virginia’s House of Delegates in 2006 before she was elected to the Virginia state Senate in 2017. Currently, she is the Vice Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

McClellan has also promised to continue the legacy of Rep. Don McEachin, who represented VA-04 until his death late last year, when it comes to environmental justice and reproductive rights.

Benjamin has never held an elected office, and this is his third run in VA-04. He is an election denier, and he has also spread untrue conspiracy theories involving 5G networks and COVID-19 vaccines.

The seat in VA-04 has been declared a “safe Democratic” seat by Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. 

Polls for today’s election are open until 7 p.m., and if you are in line before then you can still cast a vote.

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