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UVa. Law alumnus Jennifer McClellan to be first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress

McClellan was appointed in a special election Tuesday in the wake of Representative and Law alumnus A. Donald McEachin’s Nov. 21 death.

Democrat Jennifer McClellan, a Class of 1997 Law alumna, was elected to represent Virginia’s fourth district — comprising Richmond and surrounding counties – in U.S. Congress Tuesday. McClellan will be the first Black woman and fourth Black person in history to represent Virginia in Congress. 

McClellan defeated Republican nominee Leon Benjamin with 74.3 percent of the popular vote in a special election to fill the seat vacated after the death of Rep. and Law alumnus A. Donald McEachin in November. 

In her victory speech, McClellan called for bipartisan action towards improving not only Virginia, but the United States as a whole. 

“Together, we can prove that when we come together and we care more about doing the work and solving problems than the sound bites, we can help people,” McClellan said. “We will make this commonwealth and this country a better place.”

Prior to her appointment to U.S. Congress, McClellan served as vice chair of the Virginia Legislature’s Black Caucus and Senator for district nine in the Virginia House of Delegates. Her election platform emphasized the economy, voting rights, abortion access and environmental action.

In an interview with the Washington Post, McClellan said that her experience as a Black woman in Virginia has shaped her political views

“To be the first Black woman from Virginia, which was the birthplace of American democracy but also the birthplace of American slavery,” McClellan said. “And to be someone who… fought my entire adult life to address the lingering impact that slavery and Jim Crow has had on America and on Black communities. … To be able to do that on a national scale is an incredible honor.”


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