RICHMOND, Va. — Voters in Virginia's 4th Congressional District will head to the polls in a little more than three weeks. A special election on February 21 will determine who replaces the late Rep. Donald McEachin, who died in November.
Democrat State Senator Jennifer McClellan and Republican pastor Leon Benjamin are vying for the spot.
It's Benjamin's third try for the seat. He lost twice to McEachin, most recently last November.
It's McClellan's first bid for Congress. She previously ran for the Democratic nomination for governor but lost in a three-way primary contest to Terry McAuliffe.
"I'm talking directly to the voters about my record, why I'm the best candidate to continue and build on Donald's legacy and bring a perspective to the Virginia delegation that's never been there before as a Black woman," McClellan said in an interview with 13News Now.
'"I'm talking to people on the ground and whether they're independent, Democrat or Republican, and they're saying, 'You know what? It's time for a change,'" Benjamin stated in a separate interview with 13News Now. "The same old-same old has not been working.'"
Benjamin refused to concede when he lost to McEachin in 2020 and 2022 and he also questioned the legitimacy of President Joe Biden's presidential win.
"I have questions about the elections, but I'm not alone. We have about 75% of all American citizens are questioning what went on in the elections in 2020," Benjamin claimed without attributing any data indicating a large percentage of people questioning the 2020 election outcome.
Now, he wants to debate McClellan.
"I think she's hiding," he said. "My opponent is hiding and I think it's so unfair to the constituents."
But McClellan said nobody has offered to host a debate.
"First of all, no organization has extended an invitation or organized a debate that I'm aware of, or that my campaign is aware of. And we will consider such invitations for candidate forums or organized debates," she said.
McClellan went on to suggest that Benjamin may be unworthy of participating in a debate.
"I do think, though, if he has denied that he lost two elections and he has proven that facts don't matter, so it's kind of difficult to have a real, true debate with someone who denies facts,"
The comments are similar to what McEachin had to say last fall when Benjamin tried to insist upon a debate with him.
In a letter to Benjamin, McEachin wrote:
"You have refused to acknowledge either my victory in 2020 - and your defeat - or the victory of President Biden, I will note that I won by over 90,000 votes, a margin of almost 25%."
McEachin continued: "Until you accept the results of the 2020 election, concede the 2020 congressional race and acknowledge President Biden's victory, I will make no joint appearance with you."
The non-partisan University of Virginia Center for Politics' "Sabato's Crystal Ball" rates the Fourth District as "Safe Democratic."