Rep. Jennifer Wexton, Democrat of Virginia, announced Monday that she will not run for re-election next year after being diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder.
Ms. Wexton, 55, who represents a competitive district in the Virginia suburbs west of Washington, D.C., revealed in a statement that she suffers from progressive supranuclear palsy, which she described in a statement as “a parkinson on steroids.
“I am heartbroken to have to give up something I loved after so many years of serving my community,” she said.
Ms. Wexton was elected to represent Virginia’s 10th Congressional District in 2018, defeating two-term Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock by 12 percentage points.
In April, Ms. Wexton announced that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, saying at the time that it would not stop her from continuing to live her life or pursuing her political career.
“I am doing well and I want to make the most of this diagnosis, including here in Congress,” Ms. Wexton said. written thethe platform formerly known as Twitter.
However, she wrote in her Monday statement that she noticed that the people in her Parkinson’s support group were not having the same experience as her and that she was not making as much progress as she was. had hoped for it. She sought further medical advice and tests, which she believed led to her new diagnosis.
Ms. Wexton said she plans to serve out the remainder of her term.
“Even though my term in Congress is coming to an end,” Ms. Wexton said, “I am as confident and determined as ever to continue the work that led me to take on this fight during the time it has lasted. remains in Congress. office – to help build the future we want for our children.
What is progressive supranuclear palsy?
It is not uncommon for people with progressive supranuclear palsy, also known as PSP, to be misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, as was the case with Ms. Wexton. The two disorders share many symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing and problems with speech and balance.
PSP is caused by damage to nerve cells in areas of the brain that control thinking and body movements. It affects walking, balance and eye movements and progresses more quickly than Parkinson’s disease. There are currently no treatments that effectively stop or slow the progression or symptoms of the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Symptoms usually appear in the mid-to-late 60s, later than when Parkinson’s symptoms usually appear. Most people with PSP develop severe disability within three to five years of symptom onset and may suffer serious complications such as pneumonia, choking, or risk of head trauma from a fall. It can also lead to behavioral changes, such as forgetfulness and increased irritability.
Given the nature of the disorder, Ms Wexton said she wanted to spend her “precious time” with her friends and loved ones, including her husband and two sons.
His diagnosis has political implications for 2024.
When Ms. Wexton won in 2018, she flipped her Northern Virginia district from red to blue, part of an anti-Trump wave that led to Democrats regaining control of the House. She entered Congress with two other Democratic women who had flipped their seats in Virginia, Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria.
While Ms. Luria lost her reelection race last year, Ms. Wexton won her third term by a six-point margin. But Ms. Wexton’s district, one of the wealthiest in the country, remains competitive, and will likely be even more so without an incumbent for the seat.
Ms. Wexton’s decision not to run again leaves Republicans, who hold a slim majority in the House, open to winning a seat in the 2024 elections, when Democrats try to regain control of the chamber.
Annie Karni reports contributed.