Rep. Donald McEachin Dies Just Weeks After Winning Reelection
WASHINGTON — Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., an ardent champion for environmental justice and for policies to mitigate climate change, died on Monday, just weeks after winning reelection to Congress.
McEachin, who had been battling cancer and other health issues for several years, was 61.
In his last public appearance, two weeks ago, he spoke to attendees at a “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” viewing party about the “importance of early cancer detection.”
“Don’t fool around. Don’t go through my journey,” he said. “Go to the doctor.”
And yet, he still appeared to all to be ready to serve in the 118th Congress.
In a statement he released on Election Night, he urged his supporters to “kick back and enjoy the night,” vowing to “stand with my constituents and … continue to work each and every day for a stronger economy, good-paying jobs, and a lower cost of living for all Virginians.
“I will be vigilant in fighting for reproductive rights, human rights, reasonable gun safety, the protection of our democracy, and the preservation of our planet,” he said.
McEachin, a minister and lawyer, had represented Virginia’s 4th Congressional District, which stretches from Richmond to the North Carolina line, since 2017.
Prior to running for federal office, he had served nine years as a state senator and eight as a delegate.
In a statement released by his office, McEachin’s chief of staff, Tara Rountree, said the people of the 4th Congressional District had “lost a hero who always fought for them and put them first.”
The effort paid off. McEachin, who faced Republican Leon Benjamin, also a minister, in this year’s election, won with nearly 65% of the vote.
A special election for his replacement will be called at a date chosen by Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
McEachin was co-founder of the House United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force, while also serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Natural Resources Committee and Select Committee on Climate Crisis.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that McEachin was “a tireless champion for Virginia families and a force for economic opportunity and environmental justice.
“A respected voice on the Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources Committees, he advocated to lower costs, expand broadband access and protect families from gun violence,” Pelosi said.
“His many contributions to our Select Committee on the Climate Crisis helped lay the essential groundwork for our climate action over the last two years, especially the important progress toward environmental justice.”
“Congressman McEachin understood that every family — whether in the East End of Richmond or any community across America — deserves clean air, clean water and a healthy planet,” she said.
“From his time as a state legislator to his tenure in the House of Representatives, Donald’s commitment to his community and his country never wavered,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in a written statement. “He became an important voice in Washington on civil rights and environmental justice, helping ensure that our nation supports the marginalized communities that feel the effects of the climate crisis most acutely.
“As a former small business owner, he also had a deep understanding of the most pressing issues facing American workers and entrepreneurs,” Hoyer continued. “I had the pleasure of joining him in Richmond to promote my Make It In America plan and to hear his insights on what Congress can do to ensure that the American economy continues to thrive in the twenty-first century.
“Donald was a friend and trusted colleague to so many of us in the House. Although he will certainly be missed, we will never forget the positive impact he left on his country,” the Majority Leader added.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., described McEachin as “a good man who endeavored to make others feel important and heard whether in the courtroom, the General Assembly, the U.S. Congress, or simply in a quiet moment.
“He brought his passion for people, his sense of humor, and his abiding faith in God to his work every day — and he was a relentless advocate for those who needed a voice, our natural resources, and the people he represented,” she said, adding that his passing, “leaves a deep void here in Virginia.”
“But his example of leadership, his generosity of spirit, and his commitment to doing right in the world and rectifying injustices will endure for everyone whose lives he has touched — including mine,” she said. “He will be greatly missed across the Commonwealth and on Capitol Hill.”
Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., chair of the New Democrat Coalition, said the House caucus was devastated to learn of McEachin’s passing.
“As we mourn the loss of our fellow New Dem, we remember the incredible impact he had on this Congress, his community, and our country. Don was a fierce advocate for Virginia with an unparalleled passion for protecting our planet,” she said.
“During his time in Congress and as a Virginia state legislator, he worked tirelessly to advance legislation to fight climate change and transition to a clean energy economy,” DelBene continued.
“While serving on the New Dem Climate Change Task Force, the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, he worked to ensure our nation would be a better place for the next generation of Americans. There’s no doubt it will be, thanks to his efforts.”
Dan can be reached at email@example.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue
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