Democrat Rep. Jennifer Wexton Will Not Seek Reelection After Diagnosis of Progressive Supra-Nuclear Palsy

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) speaks during a news conference on August 18, 2020. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty)
Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

Democrat Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) announced Monday she will not seek reelection in her district, critical to her party, after receiving a diagnosis of progressive supra-nuclear palsy.

In April, Wexton announced that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She struck a positive tone, however, assuring constituents that she would continue to fight and expressed hope that she would serve them for “many years to come.”

However, she shared a solemn update on Monday, revealing she received a modified diagnosis of progressive supra-nuclear palsy, type-p (PSP-P).

She explained in a statement that she planned to be transparent throughout the process of her diagnosis but said she “wasn’t making the progress to manage my symptoms that I had hoped” over the past few months. She added that she “noticed the women in my Parkinson’s support group weren’t having the same experience that I was.”

“I sought out additional medical opinions and testing, and my doctors modified my diagnosis to Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy – a kind of ‘Parkinson’s on steroids,’” the 55-year-old congresswoman said, emphasizing that she believes honesty is “the most important value in public service.”

She described the modified diagnosis as “tough” and said there is “no ‘getting better’ with PSP.”

“I’ll continue treatment options to manage my symptoms, but they don’t work as well with my condition as they do for Parkinson’s,” she said, adding that she is “heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community.”

But because of her prognosis and outlook, she said she is choosing not to run for reelection in order to spend time with her family and friends. However, she is not leaving prematurely and will serve the remainder of her term.

She continued:

When I made the decision to run for Congress, this was clearly not the way I anticipated it coming to a close — but then again, pretty much nothing about my time serving here has quite been typical or as expected. I will forever cherish the people from our communities and all around the country I’ve come to know, the challenges we’ve faced together, and the ways both big and small that my team and I have made a difference in the lives of our neighbors. While my time in Congress will soon come to a close, I’m just as confident and committed as ever to keep up the work that got me into this fight in the first place for my remaining time in office – to help build the future we want for our children. I am truly humbled by the trust Virginians have placed in me, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of our district.”

The Washington Post highlighted what Wexton initially asked the doctor when she received the updated diagnosis: “Can I still run for reelection?”

“Why would you want to?” the doctor reportedly said.

Wexton’s decision puts the northern Virginia district, critical to Democrats in their hopes of regaining their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). For greater perspective, Republicans held a firm grip on the district for four decades until Wexton won the seat in 2018.

“Wexton won a third term by six points in the midterm elections, but experts say the seat could be back in play without the name recognition, fundraising capacity and political network of an incumbent,” according to the Washington Post.


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