In March 2022, Norfolk City Councilmember Andria McClellan announced her run for the newly-created 21st District Virginia Senate seat. In a press release announcing her candidacy, she said, “I’m running because I want to see Norfolk and Virginia do more than change. I want to see our communities transform to meet the needs of all of our residents.”
The move should not have been much of a surprise. She had signaled her political aspirations outside Norfolk when she made an unsuccessful bid for Lieutenant Governor during the 2021 Democratic Party primary election.
But the announcement left many who saw a political future for her right here in Norfolk wondering if she could do more good in Richmond than right here at home
“This is an open Senate seat and the redistricting puts almost all of Norfolk squarely in the 21st so if I’m successful, I’m not going far,” she said. “One of the things I love the most is policy. I’m not in a position to create much policy in the City of Norfolk and I get very frustrated by that. I know that we need good policy at the state level that will affect the issues facing the City of Norfolk.”
Those issues are myriad: flooding, affordable housing, public transit, small business, and on a larger scale, LGBTQ and reproductive rights–all things she has been working on at a local level.
In her relatively short time on City Council, Andria has proven that she is a voice for social justice, infrastructure improvement, and small business—the basics. Much of her progressive approach comes from her upbringing.
She was raised by a single mom who never attended college. “She worked at Hecht’s Department Store in the evening so I was a latchkey kid of the 80’s,” she said.
She attended Green Run High School and was Student Council President. “That was a pretty large high school,” she said. “We had 850 kids in my senior class, which was very diverse. That gave me a real sense of the world.”
She then went on to UVA where she paid her way through four years with work study and Pell Grants. After college, she met her husband Mike, and they made the move back to Virginia Beach. One of her goals was to put her business background to good use by helping non-profits.
“Mike and I made a concerted decision that I was going to stay home and raise the three boys, but it was really important for me still to be very active in the community because I have to have that sense of giving back.”
That soon led to her first foray in politics in 2008.
“I was inspired by Barack Obama like so many of us were, and I knocked on doors the very first time I ever canvassed,” she said. “I worked my way up through the local Democratic Party and helped a lot of other candidates get elected.”
Fast forward to 2015 when her efforts to persuade the Norfolk City Council to reconsider a pending vote on how school board members were elected were thwarted by Paul Fraim that the lightbulb went off.
“I left and went to MJ’s Tavern and I was sitting at the bar with Nicole (Carry), and I said, ‘Damn I’m going to run for City Council because he needs somebody sitting next to him who can temper him.’”
So she did. And won.
While on City Council, her achievements have been many. But perhaps of most interest to OutLife757 readers has been her support for and advocacy of the local LGBTQ community.
In 2018, the City purchased the building and land on which the long-time lesbian night spot, The Hershee Bar, was located. The City had already made plans to evict the bar and raze the property for a park. For those of you around at that time, you remember the uproar from not only the lesbian community, but the entire LGBTQ community.
For months, queer people packed City Council meetings to voice their outrage that the City was doing nothing to compensate for the loss of the iconic watering hole. Andria was there through it all listening intently.
But she did more than passively listen.
One cool October evening later that year, many of the Hershee patrons and friends gathered in a small warehouse in Park Place to discuss the issue with famed author and activist Marie Cartier who had come to town specifically to talk about the value of queer spaces.
Andria and other Councilmembers were invited to attend. Only Andria showed up.
I was there and the tension and anger were palatable. But Andria sat down, right in the middle of the crowd, and listened to every angry word – some of it directed at her knowing full well that the women were also releasing their frustration. Then she did something most politicians never do: she responded thoughtfully, honestly, and empathetically.
At that point, the conversation cooled down and I sat there in awe watching her demonstrate—not convince—these folks that she was their ally, not their enemy.
In that moment, I knew that she had our best interests at heart and would do all she could – no matter where she went in the world – to defend us, move our issues to the forefront, and protect us.
That’s why I fully endorse Andria McClellan for Virginia Senate.