A special election to fill the term of the late Rep. A. Donald McEachin will be held Feb. 21, and at least two Democrats are already signaling they’ll get into the race to succeed him.
Voters in the heavily Democratic 4th District, which backed President Joe Biden over Donald Trump by more than 36 points in 2020, will pick between nominees selected by a party-run “firehouse primary” on Dec. 20, the Richmond Democratic Committee announced on Twitter Monday night.
McEachin died last month after a long battle with cancer, just weeks after he won a fourth term.
State Delegate Lamont Bagby, who chairs the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said Monday he would run for the seat.
“No one will ever be able to replace Donald McEachin but I promised him, his wife Colette and his children that his legacy would live on forever. We will be thinking of him [when] issues like Environmental Justice and Criminal Justice Reform come up,” Bagby wrote on Twitter. “I have always believed leadership starts with leading with a heart. We know that when we make investments in our community in areas like education it means we can reduce spending on Criminal Justice issues as crime will fall.”
He added that the Democratic nominee “will be selected in just a few days.”
He’s likely to face state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, who filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission last week and ran for governor in 2021. It’s not clear if any other Democrats would seek the seat, but the filing deadline is Dec. 23 at 5 p.m., per the writ of election released Monday by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
If McClellan wins, the February special election could also open an opportunity for Republicans in the state Senate. Democrats currently have a 21-18 majority after the resignation of Republican Rep.-elect Jen Kiggans, who defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in Virginia’s 2nd District last month.
A special state Senate election will be held Jan. 10, and if Republicans hold that seat and McClellan resigns, the resulting 20-19 Democratic majority could give the GOP an opportunity to advance an abortion ban because one of the state Senate’s Democrats opposes the procedure, a Virginia Democratic strategist said.
On the Republican side, Leon Benjamin, who lost to McEachin by 30 points in November, is running again in the special election. Dale Sturdifen, a former Mecklenburg County School Board chair, is also reportedly running. The party’s 4th District committee can choose between a convention, a party-run canvass or a mass meeting to pick its nominee, said Ellie Sorensen, a press secretary for the Republican Party of Virginia.