On Tuesday (Feb. 21), Democrat Jennifer McClellan made history after NBC News projected she would represent Virginia in Congress. McClellan became the first Black woman to enter the governing body from the state after she defeated Republican Leon Benjamin in Tuesday’s special election in the 4th Congressional District.
“It still blows my mind that we’re having firsts in 2023,” McClellan said in an interview with the outlet. “My ancestors fought really hard to have a seat at that table, and now not only will I have a seat at the table in Congress… I’ll be able to bring that policymaking table into communities that never really had a voice before.”
She will fill the seat of Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin, who died from cancer shortly after he won reelection in November 2022. According to the news outlet, she was favored to win the well-known blue district, which covers Richmond, Virginia.
McClellan will be among 29 other Black women once she officially joins the House. “I feel a responsibility to ensure I’m not the last,” she continued. As it stands, there are currently no Black women in the Senate.
During the special election, McClellan received a call from President Joe Biden “as she was headed to her historic win,” the White House revealed. The president “looks forward to working with the Congresswoman-elect,” they added.
Before being elected to Congress, McClellan served over a decade in the House of Delegates. She has also been a member of the state Senate since 2017. In 2021, McClellan ran for Virginia governor but lost in a five-person primary to Terry McAuliffe.
With her recent election, McClellan’s campaign highlighted her efforts to protect voting rights and domestic workers, which is of a personal note to the Congress member.
She revealed that her commitment to voting rights stems partly from family members’ challenges in their efforts to vote. McClellan said she sees her win as a continuation of that fight.
“I realize that in a lot of ways, I am fighting the same fight that my mom and my grandmother and my great-grandmother fought, and rather than getting despondent over that or giving up, I dig deeper,” she said. “I’ve got to keep fighting those fights, so my daughter doesn’t have to.”