The Race Is On

Candidates for Rep. McEachin’s seat in Congress rush to meet filing deadline

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 12/15/2022, 6 p.m.
Five Democrats are preparing to run in a “firehouse” primary Tuesday, Dec. 20, to choose the party’s candidate to replace …

Five Democrats are preparing to run in a “firehouse” primary Tuesday, Dec. 20, to choose the party’s candidate to replace 4th District U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin, who died Nov. 28.

The contenders, who include Henrico Delegate Lamont Bagby and Richmond area state Sens. Jennifer L. McClellan and Joseph D. Morrissey, are now racing to meet a noon Friday, Dec. 16, filing deadline to submit candidate petitions with 150 signatures of registered voters and a $3,480 filing fee.

The list of announced candidates also includes Tavorise K. Marks, a State Farm agent in Hopewell and former vice president of the Chesterfield Branch NAACP, and Joseph E. Preston, a Petersburg attorney and former state delegate. Primary voting will be offered at five locations in the district. The winner would be almost guaranteed to win the special election set for Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, given that the district which includes Eastern Henrico County and Richmond — and stretches through Petersburg into Southside Virginia — is rated solidly Democratic.

Democratic Primary voting locations

Here are the five announced locations where voters can cast ballots in the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20:

• Dogtown Dance Studio, 109 W. 15th St. in Richmond’s South Side.

• Diversity Richmond, 1407 Sherwood Ave. in Richmond’s North Side.

• IBEW Local 666, 1309 E. Nine Mile Road in Henrico County’s Highland Springs community.

• Tabernacle Baptist Church, 444 Halifax St. in Petersburg.

• Brunswick Conference Center, 100 Athletic Field Road in Brunswick County’s Lawrenceville.

Rep. McEachin won the Nov. 8 general election for his fourth two-year term in his rematch with Republican Leon Benjamin, who, despite the loss, has announced plans to again seek his party’s nomination to run in the special election in a third attempt to secure the seat.

The rush to select a candidate began after Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin on Dec. 9 ordered the special election to be held the Tuesday after President’s Day and set the filing deadline for just one week later.

Alexsis Rodgers, chair of the 4th Congressional District Democratic Committee, issued a statement that the committee is “committed to a smooth, transparent and expedient process to select a nominee.”

Sen. Morrissey and Mr. Marks have both issued trenchant criticisms of the party’s decision to hold the primary on a weekday, which in their view is designed to reduce voter participation.

“That’s what the Democratic Party elites did,” Sen. Morrissey said Tuesday in announcing his candidacy in Petersburg. “This decision that they made last night (Monday) is the most anti-working class, anti-democratic, anti-women’s decision since” arch-segregationist Harry F. Byrd controlled the party.

Sen. Morrissey vowed to win the nomination, though, as did Mr. Marks, who was equally vocal. “This is wrong,” Mr. Marks said, “but we are still going to compete and win.”

Delegate Bagby, who regarded Rep. McEachin as his mentor, rushed to position himself as the front runner. On Monday, he became the first to announce, and he also released a list of 18 endorsements, including from Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney, Richmond Delegate Delores L. McQuinn, and two members of the Henrico County Board of Supervisors, Frank J. Thornton and Tyrone E. Nelson.

Henrico Sheriff Alissa Gregory and Richmond Sheriff Antionette Irving also have endorsed Delegate Bagby, who chairs the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, as has Henrico School Board Chairman Roscoe D. Cooper III.

Sen. McClellan, vice chair of the Black Caucus, announced Tuesday and released an initial list of 50 endorsers, including three current Virginia Democratic House members, Don Beyer of the 8th Congressional District, Gerald Connolly of the 11th Congressional District and Jennifer Wexton of the 10th Congressional District.

Her endorsers also include Richmond City Council members Michael J. Jones and Katherine Jordan, city School Board members Shonda Harris-Muhammed and Cheryl Burke, two area delegates, Rodney T. Willett of Henrico and Dawn M. Adams of Richmond, and host of others who have been engaged in state and local government affairs.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Richmond added his endorsement of Sen. McClellan, who already appears to have taken a fundraising lead. In the first 24 hours, she reported receiving $100,000 in donations.

On the Republican side, a firehouse primary is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at a Colonial Heights location to allow party members to decide between Mr. Benjamin, a min- ister, and Dale L. Sturdifen, a retired Virginia State trooper and former chairman of the Mecklenburg County School Board. The location is Life Christian Academy, 16801 Harrowgate Road, Colonial Heights.