Virginia congresswoman won't seek reelection after new health diagnosis

Rep. Jennifer Wexton has been diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy.

September 18, 2023, 9:34 AM

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., announced Monday she will not seek reelection in 2024 after receiving a new diagnosis of progressive supranuclear palsy.

Wexton, 55, was initially diagnosed with Parkinson's disease earlier this year. At the time, she said she was "feeling good" and hoped to continue serving in Congress for many years.

But in a statement on Monday, Wexton explained she wasn't making the progress she'd hoped for in managing her symptoms and noticed others in her Parkinson's support group weren't having the same experience.

"I sought out additional medical opinions and testing, and my doctors modified my diagnosis to Supra-nuclear Palsy -- a kind of 'Parkinson's on steroids.'"

"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. There is no 'getting better' with PSP," she said.

PHOTO: Jennifer Wexton at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony To Open The Silver Line Extension at the Washington Dulles International Airport Station in Loudon County, Va., on Nov. 15, 2022.
Jennifer Wexton at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony To Open The Silver Line Extension at the Washington Dulles International Airport Station in Loudon County, Va., on Nov. 15, 2022.
mpi34/MediaPunch/IPX via AP, FILE

Wexton said she is "heartbroken" not to run for another term, but has made the decision to spend her time with her husband and their two sons.

"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," she said.

Wexton was first elected to Congress in 2018 when she defeated longtime Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, ending nearly four decades of GOP control of the North Virginia district.

Before serving as a U.S. congresswoman, Wexton spent several decades as a prosecutor and spent five years as a Virginia state senator.

"She is an amazing public servant, listener, and fighter for her constituents," Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine wrote in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter, in response to her retirement announcement. "I will miss her terribly in Congress and I'll be keeping her in my prayers."

When Wexton was originally diagnosed with Parkinson's, she told "GMA3" she felt she had a responsibility to share it with the public because of the "90,000 or so people who are diagnosed every year in the U.S., I felt like I was one of the few who could actually do something about it."

She said she wanted to combat misconceptions that only older people could be diagnosed with the disease: "I want to make sure they set the record straight and also be clear about getting treatment if you feel like you have symptoms."

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