Virginia Voters Elect State’s first Black Congresswoman 

February 22, 2023

Virginia voters on Tuesday elected veteran state legislator Jennifer McClellan (D) as the state’s first-ever Black U.S. Congresswoman.

Tuesday’s election was to fill an open seat in the House of Representatives following the death of Donald McEachan (D), who lost his battle to colorectal cancer in late November at age 61.

McClellan defeated right-wing Republican Leon Benjamin in Virginia’s blue-leaning 4th District, which stretches from Richmond south to the North Carolina border. 

A Democrat filling a seat that had been held by a Democrat, McClellan’s victory will not shift the balance of power in the House, where Republicans currently hold a razor-thin five-seat majority.

Even so, some Virginia voters are hailing Clellan’s election as “historical.”

“She’s done great things for the city of Richmond, for the commonwealth as a whole,” said one of those voters, Rashida Mitchell. 

Further, Pew Research Center analysis of historical records has found that prior to McClellan’s victory Tuesday, fewer than half of all U.S. states—just 22 in total—have ever elected a Black woman to Congress.

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

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