By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
A week after Congressman Donald McEachin passed, he was laid to rest on December 7 after a service in Richmond.
Now conversations and queries about who will replace him in the U.S. Congress have surfaced in Democratic party circles.
McEachin died just three weeks after winning his fourth term in the U.S. Congress.
State party operatives are waiting on Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin to select a date for a special election to fill the 4th Congressional seat McEachin held for four terms.
His replacement will serve a two-year term in the House of Representatives.
Out of respect for the Congressman’s family, before his funeral, discussion about whom would launch a bid to run for that contest was not openly held.
Even Youngkin noted such discussions should be averted until after the funeral service of the late federal lawmaker.
But it did not stop the media and backdoor talks among pols, according to sources the GUIDE contacted.
The GUIDE and other media outlets have been busy trying to reach out to the most well-informed political operatives in the Democratic party.
The 4th District runs from Northern Virginia, through parts of Chesapeake to locales bordering North Carolina.
It is one of two majority Black and Democratic congressional districts in the State. The other the 3rd District represented by Congressperson Robert Scott who won reelection on November 8, too.
Political watchers believe that one or more candidates who announce to run for the seat will be an elected official with name recognition from a legislative district or city lodged in the 4th.
Since most of the district is in the Richmond area, slightly more northward, no politician from Hampton Roads is expected to seek the seat.
And there was a consensus list of potential candidates: Del. Lamont Bagby (Henrico); Del. Jeff Bourne (Richmond);
State Sen. Jennifer McClellan (Richmond); State Sen. Joe Morrissey (Richmond) and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.
Stoney said he is not interested.
Another name being floated in the Richmond media market is Colette McEachin, the late Congressman’s wife.
She was interim Commonwealth’s Attorney for Richmond in 2019 after serving in that position for 20 years.
She also won the Democratic nomination on August 10, 2019, and was unopposed in the November 5, 2019, special election. Her term expired in 2021. They lived in Richmond with their three children.
Those same political operatives believe that considering her age and high profile that Senator Jennifer McClellan is at the top of the list of contenders.
She entered the 2021 primary gubernatorial race but Terry McCauliffe won that race.
If she does not run for the 4th District this round, she is expected to be among the most eager for a state House run in 2025.
McEachin, who was reelected less than three weeks ago, died at the age of 61 after a long battle with colorectal cancer.
Political Analyst Rich Meagher said McEachin’s death likely means Democrats will have an empty House seat when the new Congress convenes in January, giving a slim Republican majority a little more wiggle room.
“It does mean that several politicians in the Democratic Party particularly – because the seat is so strongly Democratic – will be jockeying for a chance to be that nominee for whenever the special election is set,” Meagher said.
“I think it’s a little too soon to talk about it, but there is no secret I’ve always wanted to follow in my big brother’s footsteps,” Del. Bagby said, referring to McEachin.
When asked about a potential bid, McClellan said she’s not ready for discussions about the special election.
“We’re mourning him right now and that is a conversation that probably will be had eventually but I’m not prepared to have it right now. I miss my friend and mentor. That’s all I’m focused on today,” McClellan said.
“It’s way too premature for me to say yay or nay,” Sen. Morrissey said. “I will say this. I love being in the [state] Senate. I love being able to do something substantive for Virginia, and I’m not so sure that being one of 435 members would allow me to be as effective.”
Del. Bourne told 8News he’s still “trying to process the immense loss of such a wonderful father, husband, and public servant.”
Kevin Zeithaml, a spokesperson for Mayor Stoney’s campaign team, said a possible congressional bid “is not on the mayor’s mind at all right now.”
“He’s mourning the loss of a giant in the Richmond community and, like the rest of the city, will be looking for ways to support the McEachin family and honor his memory in the coming weeks,” Zeithaml said.
Under state law, the governor sets special elections to fill a U.S. House vacancy but isn’t under a specific deadline to do so.