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Virginia’s Historic Opportunity to Elect a Black Woman to the US House of Representatives

State Senator Jennifer McClellan has more legislative experience and successes than virtually any other potential candidate.

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: Not to take away from the accomplishments of anyone mentioned in this post, but I just wanted to point out that State Senator Jennifer McClellan’s record of leadership and legislation during her time in the House of Delegates from 2006 to 2017 and in the State Senate from 2017 to present has been *EXTREMELY* impressive – “She has been a driving force for progressive change in Virginia, leading the passage of landmark laws to invest in education, grow small business, expand access to health care, ban discrimination and inequity, safeguard workers’ rights and voting rights, reform the criminal justice system, protect a woman’s right to choose, and tackle climate change.” If Jennifer McClellan does end up running for – and being elected to – the U.S. House, IMHO she’ll make a superb Congresswoman. – Lowell]

by Holly Hazard

Representative Donald McEachin (D-VA04), who died earlier this week at the age of 61, represented the best of Virginia. He was compassionate, thoughtful, and committed to issues of equity and justice. He was only the third African-American man to represent Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he proudly represented the Fourth Congressional District.

VA04 is a “majority-minority” district, where African Americans make up the majority. It stretches from the City of Richmond toward the Hampton Roads area and encompasses both urban and rural Virginia life, community and culture. Representative McEachin was one of only 175 African Americans to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives – ever. The number of African-American women who have served is a fraction of this. Currently, Black women represent less than 5% of Congressional members and not one has ever been from Virginia.

African-American women live at the intersection of racism and misogyny, both of which are rampant in modern society. Their strength and willingness to serve has led them into leadership positions. They are also the backbone of today’s Democratic Party. Which is why the time has come for an African-American woman to join the three men before her and represent Virginia in the US House of Representatives.

Virginia’s loss of Representative McEachin’s leadership has left a void. Luckily for VA04, there are three women who have achieved leadership roles and recognition despite the odds society stacked against them: former Delegate Roslyn Tyler from Jarratt, former Delegate Lashrecse Aird from Petersburg, and Senator Jennifer McClellan from Richmond.

Each of these three women has overcome systemic racism and misogyny, creating opportunities through their leadership, skill, and talent. Any would be a good choice for the VA04 vacancy, but of the three, Senator Jennifer McClellan has the strongest political chops.

Frankly, Virginia Democrats missed an historic opportunity in 2019 to lift up Senator McClellan as the Democratic candidate for Governor. This failure was even more painful when Democrats lost control of the Executive Branch. But historic opportunities abound, and Democrats now have an opportunity to elevate her into the sadly vacant VA04 seat.

Senator Jennifer McClellan filled Donald McEachin’s last vacancy in the Virginia Senate with distinction. And now, perhaps, she could make history as the first Black woman to represent Virginians in the House of Representatives. She has more legislative experience and successes than virtually any other potential candidate.

Democrats throughout the Commonwealth will certainly weigh in and encourage VA04 constituents to choose well. Although the final decision is firmly in the hands of the voters of the 4th District, I’m hopeful we will recognize our moment in history, to not only elect a woman with the tenure, experience, and temperament to excel as a member of Congress, but to also make history with our choice to lift up Black women.

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