Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin set a special election for Feb. 21 to fill the 4th Congressional District seat of the late Democratic Rep. A. Donald McEachin, as the field of candidates seeking the post grew on Monday.
An experienced state lawmaker was among those launching a bid to succeed McEachin in representing the solidly Democratic district, which has its population base in Richmond and stretches south to the North Carolina border.
Del. Lamont Bagby, who has represented part of suburban Richmond’s Henrico County in the state House of Delegates for nearly a decade and chairs the powerful legislative Black caucus, announced his candidacy at a community center named in his honor in the neighborhood where he grew up.
“I hope that this run not only shows individuals that a young boy from Essex Village can make it, but also a young boy from Essex Village can lead — and lead with a heart, a heart like Donald McEachin had,” said Bagby, a former educator and school board member.
Bagby has said he was close with McEachin, who died last month at 61 of what his staff said were complications of his long-running fight against colorectal cancer.
Bagby was joined Monday by supporters including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who endorsed him.
Democratic state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, another well-regarded veteran lawmaker who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor last year, filed a statement of candidacy Friday and planned to make a “major announcement” Tuesday, according to a news release.
Joe Morrissey, a flamboyant attorney who overcame a litany of past scandals to win election to the state Senate in 2020, also announced he would be holding a news conference related to the vacancy Tuesday.
Democrat Joseph Preston, an attorney who served for a year in the General Assembly after winning a special election, declared his candidacy in a news release. And Tavorise Marks, a civil rights activist and former state House candidate, announced a run on social media.
The partisan lean of the district presents an enormous challenge to any Republican candidate and makes it a prize for a Democrat. Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Youngkin last year in the district by 24 points, though he lost statewide by about two points, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine defeated his 2018 GOP opponent, Corey Stewart, in the district by 40 points, according to VPAP’s accounting.
Each party will decide its own nominating method, and the nomination contests will be party-run.
The 4th Congressional District Democratic Committee voted Monday night to hold a firehouse primary, in which voters cast ballots at multiple locations, on Tuesday, Dec. 20. Republicans’ plans weren’t immediately clear.
The last day for candidates to file is Dec. 23, the governor’s office said.
On the Republican side, pastor Leon Benjamin — who has embraced former President Donald Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election and twice previously ran unsuccessfully against McEachin — announced he would run again.
Dale Sturdifen, a retired Virginia State Police officer and staffer for right-wing U.S. Rep. Bob Good, also confirmed his candidacy to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The timing of the election means it will likely coincide with the waning days of the 2023 General Assembly session. Victory by a current General Assembly member could have implications for close votes on legislation, particularly in the state Senate, which Democrats narrowly control.
McEachin, a lawyer in private practice known as an environmental and social justice advocate, was elected to his first term to the U.S. House in 2016 after serving in the General Assembly. Before his passing, he handily won reelection in November, defeating Benjamin.
A funeral attended by members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was held last week.