With a special election likely in January to fill the seat state Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-33) will leave behind when she goes to Congress, local Democrats are crowding for a chance at joining the state senate.
Already, three Democrats have announced an intention to run: Del. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-86), community activist Charlotte McConnell, and consultant Sharafat Hussain.
Of those, only Boysko has held public elected office before, serving in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2016. She also has the endorsement of the congresswoman-elect she seeks to replace.
“I look forward to expanding my efforts to ensure quality healthcare for Virginia families, protect reproductive freedom and invest to improve our transportation infrastructure,” Boysko said in a statement announcing her candidacy.
Boysko also enters the race with endorsements from Governor Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring, all six members of the House of Delegates whose districts overlap with the 33rd Senate District, and local officials including Loudoun County Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Town of Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk. Her voting record in the House of Delegates has won her high ratings or awards from the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, the Humane Society, and the Virginia Education Association.
She said if elected she expects to be much the same legislator in the senate.
“I expect to continue working on many of the same kinds of things that I’ve focused on—an economy that works for everyone, independent redistricting, making sure that we are focusing on stopping gun violence, protecting a woman’s reproductive rights,” Boysko said, along with working with localities and on Virginia’s Broadband Advisory Council.
But although Boysko has the establishment endorsement, all three have been very active in the Wexton campaign and are familiar faces in the Democratic party.
McConnell is a former Sterling District chairwoman of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee. She is also active with the nonprofit Stomp Out the Silence, which works to end child sex abuse; Equality Loudoun; the Loudoun Chapter of the NAACP; the League of Women Voters; and Moms Demand Action. She also works in the Planned Parenthood ambassador program and was awarded the Friend of Education award from the Loudoun Education Association for her work to bring attention to LGBTQ issues in Loudoun County Public Schools.
She said she offers a “progressive alternative” to Boysko in a strongly Democratic district, and that she is “certainly not your typical politician, but the past couple years have been very atypical.”
“Jennifer Wexton was an amazing senator,” McConnell said. “She did some awesome work. I want to continue some of that work, but I think the district is ready to elect someone more progressive.”
A release announcing her run says she will work to expand affordable housing options, fully fund schools, and expand Medicaid to all Virginians who want to apply. She also wants “common sense” gun reform, environmental protections, renewable energy, and “understands these goals cannot be achieved fully achieved without campaign finance reform.” In particular, she said, elected officials should refuse money from corporate political action committee and Dominion Energy.
For his part, Hussain described himself as “the only candidate who can win” the race. He is a former Loudoun County Democratic Committee fundraising chairman, a member of the Loudoun Democrats’ executive committee, and Vice Chairman of the Leesburg District Democrats. He is a former business development consultant and the chairman and publisher of Weekly Bangladeshee, a weekly paper published in New York and London with articles in English and Bengali.
He portrayed himself as Wexton’s successor.
“I want to take Jennifer’s legacy one step ahead,” Hussain said. “What she did, I’m going to take that to the next level, especially for [the Equal Rights Amendment] gun laws. Immigration reform is a number one priority as well because I’ve found a lot of opportunities here, and I love Virginia.”
The race will be at breakneck pace, with a firehouse primary—one run by the political party, rather than the state—expected Saturday, Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Special elections to fill an empty seat of this type are typically held in January.
So far, no Republicans have publicly announced they will run in the special election.