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Who is Jennifer McClellan, the first Black Congresswoman from Virginia?

The State Senator and former gubernatorial candidate will represent Virginia’s 4th District in the House of Representatives.

Jennifer McClellan elected first black Virginia Congresswoman

Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan secured a landslide victory in a special election on Tuesday, making her the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in Virginia. McClellan took the win in a Richmond-based district that had been held by the late Rep. Don McEachin, who died last November.

The Democrat held a 68-32% lead over GOP candidate Leon Benjamin when the race was called by the Associated Press.

“It’s a tremendous honour but it’s also a tremendous responsibility because I need to make sure I’m not the last,” McClellan said on Tuesday.

“And, I have a responsibility to be a mentor and help pave the way for other Black women, whether it’s, you know, running for federal office or running at local or state and to just help as many as I can to succeed.”

Who is Jennifer McClellan?

McClellan spent more than a decade in the Virginia House of Delegates and had risen to a position of prominence within the state legislature. She stood as a gubernatorial candidate in 2021 and finished third in the Democratic primaries.

Most notably she is the sitting vice chair of the Virginia Legislative’s Black Caucus, and has won election to congress in a majority Black district.

She was raised in the Virginia city of Petersburg and was first elected to the state’s House of Delegates in 2005. As was the case with her Congressional election win, she entered the state Senate in a special election, also replacing McEachin.

She won a resounding victory to be named the Democratic nominee for the 4th Congressional District last December, when she secured an 85% share of the vote. Upon winning the special election on Tuesday she said that she would continue to push for greater voting rights legislation in the federal Congress. She has outlined her interest in joining either the Armed Services, Agriculture or Foreign Affairs Committees.

Virginia elects first Black female federal lawmaker

During her time in the Virginia legislature she represented a district spanning 15 counties, including the city of Richmond at the northernmost tip of the district. The district is 74% urban and includes a number of cities, such as Richmond, with a majority Black population.

Alexsis Rodgers, 4th Congressional District Democratic Committee chair, said that the Democrats had been “really fired up” ahead of the special election that presented the opportunity to elect a Black woman to the state’s congressional delegation for the first time.

“It could be a decade or more before an opportunity to run happens, and, even in times when there are more competitive races in swing districts, a lot of times Black women or women of color are considered less viable or less likely to win,” she said.

It’s a barrier that we’re going to continue to have to chip away at, and I think that means helping organizations understand that they have to invest in Black women candidates early, not just wait to see if they can make it to the primary.”


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