On the eve of the 2017 Virginia General Assembly session, some of the region’s voters will trek to the polls and elect a new state senator.
A special election is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 10, to choose a new representative for the Virginia Senate's 9th District, which includes part of Richmond, Henrico and Hanover counties, as well as Charles City County. U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, a Democrat, resigned the post earlier this month after defeating Republican Mike Wade last November in Virginia’s redrawn 4th Congressional District.
Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. On the ballot are Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Corey Fauconier, a Libertarian.
McClellan, 44, lives in Richmond's Fan District. She is a lawyer for Verizon and has represented the 71st District in the House of Delegates since 2006. During that time, she has served on the Education, Commerce and Labor, and Courts of Justice committees.
Running for the open seat felt like a natural step, she says, especially given the recent retirements and resignations of a handful of longtime senators representing the Richmond region.
“The Richmond area has lost a lot of seniority and institutional knowledge and experience [in the Senate],” McClellan says. “I felt that I could hit the ground running and continue the leadership they had provided for the region.”
As a Democrat, McClellan has spent her entire tenure in the House’s minority. Advancing any legislation meant building relationships with her Republican counterparts. McClellan believes her experience working with her colleagues, regardless of party, will give her a leg up if elected to the Senate, she says.
“People forget that government is people,” McClellan says. “It’s about your interpersonal skills, your personal relationships and how well you work together, not only with people of your own party, but people across the aisle and people from different regions.”
If elected, McClellan would be sworn in during the second week of the 2017 session, which begins on Wednesday.
Also vying for the seat is Corey Fauconier. The 45-year-old native of New York City's Queens borough lives in Highland Springs and works as a supervisor for a transportation company. A member of the Libertarian Party, Fauconier has never held or run for elected office.
“When I found out there was a special election, the Libertarian Party didn’t have anyone except for me in the district, so I decided that this was the time to bring liberty, especially to African-Americans, because there aren’t a whole lot of African-American Libertarians,” Fauconier says.
Fauconier says his top issues are school choice, protecting the rights of gun owners and attracting more businesses and entrepreneurs to the district. He also wants to reduce crime in his neighborhood, where he says he is working to build a partnership between the community and the Henrico police.
What does Fauconier offer the district's voters that his opponent does not? An alternative to the establishment’s choice.
“Right now, Democrats and Republicans aren’t working well together because they want to blame each other,” he says. “The commonwealth has to get better. The folks that get elected to office, they’re supposed to represent us, not represent themselves.”
If elected, Fauconier would be the only Libertarian in the General Assembly.