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Democrat Jennifer McClellan makes history winning special election in Virginia

McClellan becomes the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — Democrat Jennifer McClellan made history Tuesday winning the special election in Virginia's 4th Congressional District and becoming the first Black woman to represent the state in Congress.

Polls closed at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and as of 8 p.m., McClellan led Republican Leon Benjamin by 71,184 votes to 27,253 with 283 precincts of 302 reporting, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. Neither candidate has issued a statement.

The election was held due to the death of three-term Democratic Congressman Donald McEachin, who died of complications from colorectal cancer last November. The 4th District covers the entirety of the capital, Richmond, and parts of Henrico County in the far north of the District while reaching south to the North Carolina border. 

“We will make this commonwealth and this country a better place for everyone,” McClellan said in a victory speech Tuesday. “I am ready to get to work.”

Benjamin, a pastor, lost twice to McEachin, with the most recent result coming in November, when he gained 36.2% of the votes. State Senator McClellan has a long political history in Virginia, including stints in the House of Delegates and the state Senate, along with a gubernatorial run in 2020 when she came in third in the Democratic primary behind eventual nominee Terry McAuliffe and Jennifer Carroll Foy after receiving 11% of votes.

McClellan raised nearly 15 times more than Benjamin in campaign contributions. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, McClellan had raised $913,144 as of February 1, while Benjamin raised $64,070. 

Chesterfield County resident Paula Britt said she votes in every election and cast her ballot for Benjamin because she hopes to maintain a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. 

Another Chesterfield County local, James Puckett, said he voted for McClellan because her values align with his. 

"She represents my values more than the other fellow," Puckett said. 

Puckett said that with a slim Republican majority in the House of Representatives, he fears cuts to social security. 

"I think our social safety net, I'm afraid, is getting ripped to shreds and I want to see that stay in place," Puckett said. 

Hannah Woehrle of Richmond said that accessible health care was an issue that mattered to her when voting. Woehrle described herself as a socialist and said she voted for McClellan as a form of harm reduction. 

"My boyfriend lost his health care at 26, and it was a pain in the ass trying to get coverage," Woehrle said of her boyfriend, who is self-employed. "That's been impacting us a lot recently." 

Woehrle said she hoped McClellan would help eliminate student loan debt if elected. 

"Student loan debt is through the roof," Woehrle said. "The federal government has yet to come through on the promises to cancel that." 

McClellan led the passage of the first expansion of abortion rights in Virginia legislative history with the Reproductive Health Protection Act in 2020. This session, McClellan passed several bills through the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.

Senate Bill 1498 extends eligibility for the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Program to the descendants of those who lived in areas of Virginia where public schools were closed to avoid desegregation between 1954 and 1964. Senate Bill 1323 requires the State Corporation Commission to establish annual energy efficiency savings targets for customers who are low-income, elderly, disabled, or veterans of military service for Dominion Energy. 

Categories:Government, Politics

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