Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat who flipped a Northern Virginia seat in 2018, will not seek reelection next year after receiving a new health diagnosis that is more challenging than Parkinson’s disease.
Wexton, 55, said Monday that doctors modified her diagnosis to progressive supranuclear palsy, which she described as “a kind of ‘Parkinson’s on steroids.’”
“I’ve always believed that honesty is the most important value in public service, so I want to be honest with you now — this new diagnosis is a tough one,” she said in a statement. “There is no ‘getting better’ with PSP. I’ll continue treatment options to manage my symptoms, but they don’t work as well with my condition as they do for Parkinson’s.”
PSP is a rare brain disorder that can affect body movements, walking, balance and eye movements, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can later affect swallowing. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms because there is no cure.
Wexton first announced in April that she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which affects the nervous system. At the time, she said she planned to remain in Congress while undergoing treatment.
“I’m heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community,” she said Monday. “But taking into consideration the prognosis for my health over the coming years, I have made the decision not to seek reelection once my term is complete and instead spend my valued time with Andrew, our boys, and my friends and loved ones.”
First elected in the so-called blue wave of 2018, Wexton flipped the 10th District and was reelected twice, defeating Republican Hung Cao, who is now running for Senate, by 6.5 percentage points last year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn’t include her in its initial list of 2024 “Frontliners,” and the National Republican Campaign Committee didn’t name her as an initial target in next year’s elections.
While Wexton flipped a seat that was previously held by Republicans, the district was redrawn after the 2020 census and in its current configuration would have backed Democrat Joe Biden over President Donald Trump in 2020 by 18 points. Even without an incumbent, it could be a difficult seat for Republicans to flip, especially in a presidential election year. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the seat as Likely Democratic.
One potential Wexton successor is Phyllis Randall, the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Wexton may not be the only Virginia Democrat not seeking reelection next year, as Rep. Abigail Spanberger is reportedly planning to run for governor and may not run again next year. The two are friends and were elected at the same time, along with former Rep. Elaine Luria, who lost a reelection bid in the 2nd District last year to GOP Rep. Jen Kiggans.
Former Special Forces Green Beret Derrick Anderson announced his campaign in the 7th District on Monday. Anderson lost a Republican primary for the seat to Yesli Vega last year.
Virginia’s congressional races may not fully take shape until after this November’s legislative races. Control of the state Senate and House of Delegates are both up for grabs, with four competitive races for the state Senate and seven for the House, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project.
Wexton said that “pretty much nothing about my time serving here has quite been typical or as expected” but that she would cherish her time in Congress and the people she’s met in her community and from around the country.
Fellow Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer McClellan said Wexton “became a big sister to me when I joined her in the Senate of Virginia” and called her a “true civil servant.”
“Jennifer now faces her toughest fight, which I know she will face with the same tenacity and dignity that has fueled her public service,” McClellan said. “I look forward to working with her as she continues to serve the 10th District in the 118th Congress. We still have more work to do together.”