Virginia state senator becomes second Black woman to declare for governor’s race

Jennifer McClellan has declared her candidacy for the 2021 contest.

Virginia state senator Jennifer McClellan (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Confederate statues are coming down in Richmond, Virginia, among many Southern states that still have them. Another historical precedent may be falling as well. While Virginia was the first state to elect a Black male governor, Douglas Wilder, in 1990, they’ve never had a Black female governor.

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That may change as state senator Jennifer McClellan has declared for the 2021 gubernatorial race. The 47-year-old has served four years in the state Senate but was a member of the House of Delegates for 11 years representing the Richmond area.

(Credit: Jennifer McClellan)

“We’re at an inflection point of four crises that we need to recover from,” she told HuffPost “We need to rebuild from an economic crisis, rebuild from a health crisis, rebuild from a reckoning of racial injustice and rebuild from a loss of faith… in the ability of government to solve problems. And we need to do it in a way that addresses inequality and doesn’t leave anybody behind.”


McClellan,  a Democrat joins fellow Democrat, state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy who declared her candidacy last month. Foy is also African American. McClellan is a formidable opponent as the state’s current Republican governor Ralph Northam cannot run again to term limits.

She is the vice-chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus,  chair of the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission. In the last legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly, 36 of her proposed bills, which included protections for pregnant workers, domestic workers, and for green energy infrastructure development, became law.

So far, aside from Caroll Foy, her competition may include popular former governor Terry McAuliffe, Richmond mayor Levar Stoney and the first Republican contender to declare, Trump supporter and current state senator Amanda Chase who wants to run the “liberal, socialistic agenda” out of Virginia.

Given the current climate as the country has been roiled by protests again police brutality and Virginia becoming an increasingly blue state, McClellan hopes that her progressive, inclusive campaign platform will resonate with voters from all backgrounds.

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“Black women have been the backbone of our communities and our economy but have been relegated to the shadows or the back over the past 400 years,” she told HuffPost.

“And again, whether it’s Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, or Ida B. Wells, or Shirley Chisholm, have said, you know, we’re going to keep pushing and keep striving for progress. We’re at a critical moment where we’ve broken through. … So this is not something in response to 2019; it’s the natural progression of 400 years of just pushing through to lead.”

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