Home » McClellan makes history as Virginia’s first Black woman elected to Congress

McClellan makes history as Virginia’s first Black woman elected to Congress

by The Grio

Democrat Jennifer McClellan defeated her Republican opponent in a special election Tuesday to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she will be the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress.

McClellan, a veteran state legislator from Richmond, prevailed over pastor and Navy veteran Leon Benjamin in the race for the blue-leaning 4th District, which has its population center in the capital city and stretches south to the North Carolina border.

The seat was open after the death of Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin in November. McEachin died weeks after being elected to a fourth term after a long fight with the secondary efforts of colorectal cancer.

A 50-year-old corporate attorney, McClellan has represented parts of the Richmond area in the General Assembly since 2006, when she joined the House of Delegates. In December, she handily secured the Democratic nomination for the 4th District race in a four-way firehouse primary.

A native of central Virginia, McClellan said in an interview ahead of the election that the history she will make as the first Black woman to represent the state in Congress carries extra weight because of her family’s history in the Jim Crow South.

Her father’s grandfather had to take a literacy test and find three white people to vouch for him just to be able to register to vote, she said. Her dad and his father paid poll taxes and her mother, now 90, didn’t vote until after the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“It’s a huge honor, and responsibility, to ensure that I’m not the last,” she said.

At the Statehouse, McClellan has cultivated a reputation as a deeply knowledgeable, widely respected consensus builder and legislator. A skilled debater with a polished, reserved style, she’s sponsored many of Democrats’ top legislative priorities in recent years, including bills that expanded voting access and abortion rights and…

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