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Previewing the 4th District Democrat firehouse primary

Democrats in Virginia’s 4th District – which includes part of the Richmond area – will head to the polls Tuesday to select a candidate for the special election to replace former Congressman Donald McEachin, who died last month.

The head-spinning pace of this special election is causing candidates to scramble for a last-minute firehouse primary that features two state senators, Jennifer McClellan and Joe Morrissey.

The February 21st date for the special election requires quick action to nominate candidates, says Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington.

"It's a little more complicated to do the nominations now because of changes in laws that require a longer period of early voting and greater access to the ballot for people who are serving overseas and so on," explains Farnsworth.

Jatia Wrighten at Virginia Commonwealth University says Democrats who will be selecting a candidate for Congress are familiar with the two major candidates.

"They're very well known," Wrighten says. "And so, the quick turnaround is not going to harm them in a way that if they were new or sort of first on the scene political candidates – and they’re not."

Over the weekend, Republicans selected Leon Benjamin to be their candidate. And that's not the only special election on the horizon. Next month, voters will be selecting replacements for state Senator Jen Kiggans, who was recently elected to Congress, Delegate Mark Keam, who stepped down to join the Biden administration, and Delegate Ronnie Campbell, who died last week following a battle with cancer.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.