Candidates announce bids to succeed McEachin in Congress

Published 1:06 pm Thursday, December 15, 2022

Surry County Democrats now have a local means of casting their votes in a Dec. 20 “firehouse primary” to determine the party’s nominee in a Feb. 21 special election to fill the late U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin’s seat.

McEachin, a Democrat, represented Surry County in Congress. He was reelected to a two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 8 but died on Nov. 28 after a nine-year battle with cancer.

A “firehouse primary,” also known as an “unassembled caucus,” is run and funded by a political party, according to the Virginia Mercury. Firehouse primaries usually run all day at several different locations. A winner is determined by whomever gets the most votes, regardless of whether any one candidate receives a 50% or higher majority.

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The 4th Congressional District spans from Richmond to the North Carolina border. McEachin was first elected as the district’s representative in 2016.

The 4th District Democratic Committee initially announced polling places in Richmond, Lawrenceville, Highland Springs and Petersburg, but on Dec. 14 added sites in Chesterfield, Surry and Charles City counties.

State Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, announced on Monday he would seek the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for the seat but suspended his campaign Thursday and endorsed state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, who is also vying for the seat.

According to Richmond ABC affiliate WRIC, state Sen. Joseph Morrissey, D-Petersburg, attorney Joseph Preston and Chesterfield County NAACP First Vice President Tavorise Marks have also announced their candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

The only polling site that will open in Surry County on Dec. 20 is the Surry Parks & Recreation Center at 205 Enos Farm Drive. The polling site will open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Any registered 4th Congressional District voter who considers himself or herself a Democrat can cast a ballot.

McEachin’s 2020 and 2022 Republican challenger, Leon Benjamin, announced on Facebook he would again seek the Republican nomination to run in the special election. McEachin had defeated Benjamin with just under 65% of the districtwide 2022 vote to Benjamin’s just under 35%.

Also running as a Republican is former Mecklenburg County School Board Chairman Dale Sturdifen, according to the Times-Dispatch.

The 4th Congressional District’s Republican Committee will hold a party canvass at Life Christian Academy in Colonial Heights from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 17. According to a GOP press release, the method for voting will be “ranked choice,” in which voters will be asked to rank all candidates on the ballot in order of their preference.