Democratic congresswoman Jennifer Wexton said on Monday that she will finish out her term but not seek re-election for the northern Virginia-based seat that she has held since beating a Republican incumbent in 2018.
Wexton, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease earlier this year, said in a statement that her doctor had “modified my diagnosis to supra-nuclear Palsy”. She described it as a “kind of ‘Parkinson’s on steroids’”.
The congresswoman, who is 55, added that she was “heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community”. But she said that taking her prognosis for the coming years into consideration had prompted her to decide “not to seek re-election once my term is complete”.
Wexton was part of a new influx of Democrats to Congress that helped flip control of the body midway through Donald Trump’s presidency. Before being elected to Virginia’s 10th district, an area that includes the western Washington DC suburbs of Leesburg and Loudoun county through Fauquier county, Wexton was a member of the state’s senate, a judge and a prosecutor.
In 2022, she won re-election by more than 6%.
Wexton said that she had not been making as much progress as she had hoped with what was then believed to Parkinson’s. Her new diagnosis – progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) – is caused by damage to nerve cells in areas of the brain that control thinking and body movements.
The National Institutes of Health report that most people with PSP develop eye problems as the condition progresses, and they tend to lean backwards as well as extend their necks. People with Parkinson’s tend to bend forward rather than backwards.
The Washington Post reported that Weston had told her staff of her condition: “It’s not OK. It’s not OK at all … I’m going to die, which isn’t fair.”
Wexton’s statement said she wanted to spend her “valued time” with her family and friends. She said that until her term in office ends she is “confident and committed as ever to keep up the work that got me into this fight in the first place”.