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Virginia Rep. Wexton will not seek reelection, citing new diagnosis

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) announced on Monday that she will not seek reelection after receiving an updated, more serious diagnosis of progressive supranuclear palsy.

Wexton revealed in April that she’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, saying at the time that she hoped to continue serving “for many years to come.” But she sought additional testing after she had not been making the progress “to manage my symptoms that I had hoped,” Wexton, 55, said in a statement, leading to the new diagnosis of PSP, which she called “a kind of Parkinson’s on steroids.” The two conditions are often confused when first diagnosing a patient because they have similar symptoms.

“I’m heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community,” Wexton said in the statement. “But taking into consideration the prognosis for my health over the coming years, I have made the decision not to seek reelection once my term is complete and instead spend my valued time with Andrew, our boys, and my friends and loved ones.”

Earlier this year, Wexton said the disease had primarily affected her speech and how her mouth moved, causing her to speak more quickly. It has also impacted her balance and the way she walks.

“I’ve always believed that honesty is the most important value in public service, so I want to be honest with you now — this new diagnosis is a tough one,” Wexton said. “There is no ‘getting better’ with PSP. I’ll continue my treatment options to manage my symptoms, but they don’t work as well with my condition as they do for Parkinson’s.”

Wexton was elected in 2018 when she defeated Republican Barbara Comstock and ended 40 years of GOP control of the district. She won reelection last year in the midterms. Wexton’s announcement on Monday now leaves open a vulnerable House seat.

Wexton was a staunch Trump critic and said in a Washington Post interview that she wouldn’t have run for the House if Trump wasn’t president. Wexton gained national prominence after she was elected when she displayed a trans flag outside her Capitol Hill office in 2019.

Virginia lawmakers on Monday came out in support of Wexton for her decision to not seek reelection. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said she had “served Virginians with dignity and strength.”

“No one could tackle this with more grace and tenacity than you, Jennifer,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said Monday. “In Congress and across Northern Virginia, we are with you.”

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