FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan has overwhelmingly won the Democratic nomination to succeed the late A. Donald McEachin in Congress, party officials said.
McClellan won the nomination with 23,661 votes in Tuesday’s firehouse primary over Sen. Joe Morrissey, who netted just 3,782, and two other candidates. She will be the overwhelming favorite in the heavily Democratic 4th Congressional District when a special election is held Feb. 21.
“Tuesday’s party-run process saw historic turnout with 27, 900 votes cast, making it the largest party-run nomination process in the history of the Democratic Party of Virginia,” according to the party’s website.
Republicans on Saturday picked Leon Benjamin, a Richmond native, pastor and Navy veteran who has twice unsuccessfully challenged McEachin, as their nominee.
If McClellan wins in February, she will become the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress.
McClellan, 49, a corporate attorney, has represented parts of the Richmond area in the General Assembly since 2006. She ran for governor in 2021 but lost the Democratic primary to Terry McAuliffe.
If elected to Congress, she would represent the state’s 4th District, a majority-minority district based in Richmond that stretches south to the North Carolina border.
Establishment Democrats coalesced around McClellan in her campaign against Morrissey, a populist and twice-disbarred former prosecutor-turned-defense attorney who’s proved remarkably resilient over a three-decade career in electoral politics.
Morrissey had accused Democrats of working against him in planning Tuesday’s primary. which was held on short notice after McEachin’s death Nov. 28 after a battle with colon cancer.
McEachin’s widow, Colette — herself an elected official in Richmond — was among a number of high-profile endorsers of McClellan. Del. Lamont Bagby dropped out of the race last week in a move widely seen as an effort to prevent Morrissey from emerging victorious on a fractured ballot.
The primary was run by the Democratic Party, with balloting at eight sites located throughout the district. Virginia voters do not register by political party, so voting was open to all registered voters willing to sign a pledge indicating they are a Democrat and intend to support the party’s nominee.
Voting occurred Tuesday but the party did not count begin counting ballots until Wednesday.