Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D) has won the chaotic Democratic firehouse primary to succeed Rep. Donald McEachin (D), who died in November of colorectal cancer.
Given the highly Democratic makeup of Virginia’s 4th congressional district, McClellan is virtually guaranteed to win the general special election on February 21, 2023. McEachin won his seat in November by almost 29 points.
It’s a rapid ascension for McClellan, who only started campaigning one week ago.
Up against tight deadlines for candidate filings and a general election just weeks after, the Virginia Democratic Party opted for a so-called firehouse primary on Tuesday, which left no time for early voting or mail-in ballots. Campaigns had only days to mount get-out-the-vote operations. The race was finally called on Thursday, despite McClellan appearing to win in convincing fashion with more than 80 percent of the vote.
Some district Democrats, including candidate and state Sen. Joe Morrisey, criticized the state party for not holding the primary on a Saturday instead in order to maximize in-person turnout.
But others, like McClellan, argued it made sense to maximize the amount of time before voters had to make a decision. In that regard, she told The Daily Beast in an interview last week that Tuesday was a sensible option.
State Del. Lamont Bagby had also been a leading contender for the seat, but dropped out last week in an apparent bid to consolidate support for McClellan, who would be the first Black woman to serve in Virginia’s congressional delegation. McClellan also received endorsements from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and a number of Virginia congressional Democrats, among others.
She also received the endorsement of McEachin’s widow, Colette.
McClellan said she hopes to carry on some of McEachin’s legislative priorities, including on environmental issues, voting rights and reproductive health. The Democratic nominee has long considered McEachin a mentor after succeeding his seat in the state Senate.
McClellan previously ran for governor in 2021 and has served in the state legislature since 2006.