Democrats have made history in Virginia, with Jennifer McClellan becoming the state’s first Black woman elected to Congress, NBC News projected Tuesday.
McClellan won her special election Tuesday against Republican Leon Benjamin, who is also Black, in Virginia’s 4th District. The vacancy was created when Rep. Don McEachin died of cancer shortly after he won a fourth term in November.
McClellan has been in the Virginia Senate since early 2017, when she won a special election for the seat McEachin held before he was elected to Congress. McClellan’s congressional district leans heavily Democratic — McEachin defeated Benjamin in November by 30 percentage points.
Adding McClellan to the House Democratic caucus obviously doesn’t give Democrats a majority. With her addition, the count stands at 222-213 in favor of Republicans. But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has already experienced trouble leading his unruly caucus with its razor-thin majority — an issue worsened by the fact that Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., isn’t in action while he recovers from a fall from a ladder last month.
With McClellan’s win, the number of Republican votes that Democrats need to sway in their favor on any number of issues lowers from six to five. Are defections of that magnitude likely? No. Is this something McCarthy will have to worry about in the immediate future? Almost certainly.