Virginia voters are heading to the polls on Tuesday in what could be a historic election to fill the lone vacancy in the 118th Congress.

Democratic state Sen. Jennifer McClellan and Republican Leon Benjamin are vying to step into a seat previously occupied by Democrat Rep. A. Donald McEachin, who died in November.

President Joe Biden won Virginia’s 4th Congressional District by roughly 35 percentage points in 2020.

That makes McClellan, a corporate attorney for Verizon, the favorite against Benjamin, a pastor who lost to McEachin last year in a district anchored by Richmond that stretches south to the North Carolina border.

State Sen. Jennifer McClellan speaking to supporters during Democratic Party primary election day in Richmond, Va., June 8, 2021. (Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

If she prevails, the 50-year-old state legislator would be the first Black woman Virginia voters have ever sent to Congress.

“Just one day left until Virginia elects the first Black woman to Congress,” McClellan boasted Monday on Twitter. “Who’s ready?”

The two contenders couldn’t be more different in their beliefs.

Benjamin is a staunch conservative who has emphasized his support for parents rights and school choice. He’s also the host of a conservative video program where he has often surfed into conspiracy theory waters.

Among his past statements were refusing to concede his own 2020 election loss; espousing that the COVID-19 pandemic was a “cover-up” to establish a “new world order”; and arguing the vaccine for the disease contained a “tracking system” set up to control people using 5G cell phone networks.

McClellan surprised many when she challenged Terry McAuliffe in the Democratic primary for governor in 2021. McAuliffe ultimately lost to Republican Glenn Youngkin.

That race raised McClellan’s profile to the forefront of Virginia politics and, during this congressional campaign, she has leaned into progressive legislative ideas such as expanding voting rights, protecting access to abortion and environmental justice.


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