Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Democrats vie for McEachin’s House seat

polling place: vote here, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Crixell Matthews
Virginia Democrats will hold a firehouse primary before the end of December to run in a special election for Rep. Donald McEachin's vacant seat. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Central Virginia Democrats are pitching themselves as the right person to fill the vacant 4th Congressional District seat.

Rep. Donald McEachin held the seat from 2017 until Nov. 28, when he died of complications from cancer. The 61-year-old had just won reelection.

Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), state Sens. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) have all thrown their name in the ring for the district that stretches from Richmond to the North Carolina border, where it covers Brunswick County and much of Southampton County.

Joseph Preston, who served in the 63rd District in 2015 following another special election, and former House of Delegates candidate Tavorise Marks have also announced their candidacies.

The candidates are sprinting toward a firehouse primary on Dec. 20 — only a week from Morrissey and McClellan’s announcements. The Democratic Party has to submit a candidate by Dec. 23, according to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s  writ of election.

McClellan, Morrissey and Bagby said they’re running on their records in state politics.

Bagby has mentioned his efforts as a Henrico County School Board member and public school educator, highlighting family engagement programs he helped establish. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus chair said he’d spend his time in Washington trying to live up to McEachin’s legacy and put special emphasis on criminal justice reform.

“That’s gonna be my charge as well in D.C.,” Bagby said.

At a Tuesday press conference on State Capitol grounds, McClellan said she’d carry on McEachin’s work on climate change, worker protections, and reproductive and voting rights. She noted she’d sponsored and pushed high-profile legislation through the General Assembly, including the Clean Economy Act, domestic worker protections and the Voting Rights Act of Virginia.

“This is a bittersweet day for me as I continue to mourn a friend, but hear the call to carry on his legacy and carry my servant leadership to Washington,” McClellan said.

Asked about the prospect of managing a short General Assembly session and a breakneck campaign, McClellan said, “If anyone knows how to multitask, it’s a working mom.”

At another press conference on the steps of Petersburg City Hall, Morrissey touted his record on criminal justice reform: reestablishing parole for juveniles, abolishing the death penalty and creating new public defender’s offices.

“I have consistently and constantly looked out for the marginalized,” Morrissey said.

Morrissey also pledged to not rise to national office until his work as a state senator in the upcoming General Assembly session is complete. The session is set to conclude Feb. 25.

The state senator also vehemently criticized the 4th District Democratic Committee’s decision to hold the firehouse primary on Dec. 20, a Tuesday, as opposed to Saturday, Dec. 17. Morrissey argued that a Saturday vote is standard for firehouse primaries, because more people can access polls.

“This decision that they made last night is the most anti-working class, anti-Democratic, anti-woman decision since the Byrd era,” Morrissey said, referencing the political machine that ran Virginia politics for much of the 20th century and actively opposed racial integration.

Morrissey accused “party elites” of “wanting to put their own person in.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia announced polling locations for next week’s primary as well:

  • Brunswick Conference Center: 100 Athletic Field Rd., Lawrenceville
  • Dogtown Dance Studio: 109 W 15th St., Richmond
  • Diversity Richmond: 1407 Sherwood Ave., Richmond
  • IBEW Local 666: 1390 E Nine Mile Rd., Highland Springs
  • Tabernacle Baptist Church: 444 Halifax St., Petersburg

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In a press release, 4th District Committee Chairperson Alexsis Rodgers said, “Democratic Party volunteers will run this nomination contest, and our focus is on making sure this process is run as smoothly and transparently as possible for candidates and voters alike.”

Republicans Leon Benjamin and Dale Sturdifen have both announced their candidacy in the heavily Democratic district. Benjamin recently lost against then-incumbent McEachin for the 4th District seat. Sturdifen lost a 2019 primary to state Sen. Frank Ruff (R–Clarksville).

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
Related Stories