Del. Lamont Bagby, a Virginia lawmaker who earlier this week announced a bid to represent the 4th Congressional District after the death of U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin, dropped out of the race Thursday.
His decision leaves at least two other Democratic state lawmakers in the running for the solidly blue seat: state Sens. Jennifer McClellan and Joe Morrisey, both of Richmond.
In a statement, Bagby endorsed McClellan, saying suspending his campaign was in the “best interests of the voters” to “ensure we have the right representation in Congress."
“Just as I am clear eyed in my decision to step aside, I also firmly believe that there is only one candidate in this race fit to replace my late mentor, Donald McEachin. That person is Senator Jennifer McClellan," he said.
McClellan, who if elected would be the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress, is a veteran member of the General Assembly who mounted a serious but unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor last year.
She stands to benefit from the name recognition associated with that run, and this week has rolled out dozens of endorsements. Among them were four members of the Virginia congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, the highest profile official to weigh in on the race so far.
She also announced this week that her campaign raised more than $100,000 in the first 24 hours following her announcement.
Morrissey is a flamboyant attorney with a hard-charging style who overcame a litany of past scandals to win election to the state Senate in 2020 after previously serving in the House of Delegates. In the Senate, he’s a leading voice on criminal justice reform issues and an impassioned debater, and his office has a strong reputation for its grassroots connections and constituent service.
Republicans and Democrats will be selecting their nominees in party-run processes ahead of a Feb. 21 special election. Democrats are holding a firehouse primary with voting locations across the district on Tuesday, and candidates have until noon Friday to file to run. Two other Democrats, Joseph Preston and Tavorise Marks, have expressed interest in running.
Republicans are hosting a canvass in Colonial Heights on Saturday, and their filing deadline is 5 p.m. Thursday. Two candidates, Leon Benjamin and Dale Sturdifen, have discussed plans to seek their party's nomination.
The eventual GOP nominee is expected to face an uphill climb. The solidly Democratic district has its population center in metro Richmond and stretches south to the North Carolina border.
McEachin was elected to his first term to the U.S. House in 2016 after serving in the General Assembly. He died last month at age 61 of what his staff said were complications of his long-running fight against colorectal cancer.