On Tuesday, Democrat Jennifer McClellan was elected to fill an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to Tuesday’s Election, only 22 states had ever elected a Black woman to Congress. In Virginia, McClellan will be the first Black woman to represent the commonwealth in Congress.
McClellan defeated Republican nominee Leon Benjamin in the special election. According to a White House pool report, President Joe Biden called McClellan Tuesday night while “she was headed to her historic win” and “looks forward to working with the Congresswoman-elect.”
Prior to Tuesday’s Election, only 22 states had ever elected a Black woman to Congress. She is a native of central Virginia. McClellan mentioned her drive behind breaking barriers in Virginia stemmed from her family’s history in the Jim Crow South. McClellan recalls her father’s grandfather having to take a literacy test and find three White people to advocate for him just to be able to register to vote. Both her father and grandfather paid poll taxes and her mother, now 90, did not cast a ballot until after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.
“It still blows my mind that we’re having firsts in 2023,” Mclellan said in a recent interview.
“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.”