Del. Marie March, R-Floyd County. From campaign website.
Del. Marie March, R-Floyd County. From campaign website.

As Democrats and Republicans across Virginia put their partisan differences aside and together mourned the loss of Rep. Don McEachin, a Democrat from Henrico County who died at the age of 61 Monday, state Del. Marie March, R-Floyd County, used the lawmaker’s death to criticize him for his efforts to protect abortion rights. 

Rep. Donald McEachin. Official portrait.

“I did not know Congressman McEachin but I was terribly sad to read that his last political effort during his life was to enshrine abortion,” March wrote in a Facebook post late on Monday, shortly after the news of the congressman’s death broke. 

The freshman delegate, who is facing a tough nomination battle against her Republican colleague, Del. Wren Williams of Patrick County, after the two had been drawn into the same district last December, continued to hail her own efforts in working to limit abortion rights in the commonwealth. 

“Since getting elected, I have felt called to fight for the lives of all the little souls that haven’t been given a chance,” March wrote in the Facebook post. “We have our own cross to bear and it is the reality of all the aborted children in America … I hope that when my days on Earth are done and God calls me home that I will have lived my life if only to save even one unborn life.”

March did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. 

McEachin, who died Monday after dealing with complications from battling colorectal cancer, had just been reelected earlier this month to a fourth term in Congress representing Virginia’s 4th Congressional District, which stretches from Richmond to Brunswick, Greensville and Southampton counties.

Prior to his stint in Washington, D.C., McEachin served two terms in the Virginia House of Delegates and nine years in the state Senate, where he was widely respected among colleagues from both parties. 

Virginia Republican leadership did not immediately respond to questions about March’s Facebook post. But the lawmaker’s attempt at politicizing McEachin’s death stood in stark contrast with comments made by other Republican officials, who paid tribute to the late congressman.

Rich Anderson, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and a former colleague of McEachin in the state legislature, expressed condolences on behalf of his party. “I served with then-State Senator McEachin in the General Assembly and know first-hand that he lived a life of service to our commonwealth. Tonight, we honor his memory and lift up his family in prayer at this difficult time,” Anderson said in a statement.

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, who had a long history with McEachin both in Richmond and Washington, wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply saddened” by the news of his colleague’s death. 

“I had the pleasure of serving with Don in the Virginia House of Delegates and in the United States Congress, where we worked together on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He was an honorable and passionate statesman and colleague, and I offer my condolences to his family, staff and constituents,” Griffith wrote.

Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt County, also expressed his condolences on Twitter. “I’m saddened to hear about the passing of my colleague, @RepMcEachin. Elizabeth and I are praying for his family, loved ones, staff, and constituents during this difficult time,” he wrote.

And Rep. Bob Good, R-Campbell County, wrote on the platform that he was “grateful for the kindness” that McEachin had shown him during the two years they served together in Congress. “My prayers are with his family,” Good wrote.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin also took to Twitter once he had heard of McEachin’s passing, where he called him a “valiant fighter until the end” who “admirably served Virginia & worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his constituents & Americans.” 

On Tuesday, Youngkin ordered that the flags of the United States and Virginia be flown at half-staff on all state and local buildings and grounds in the commonwealth “in memory and respect” of McEachin until sunset on Wednesday.

Prominent Democrats also mourned McEachin. 

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who first met McEachin in 1985 and was last with him on election night three weeks ago, in a statement called the congressman “a gentle giant, a compassionate champion for underdogs, a climate warrior, a Christian example, an understanding dad, a proud husband, a loyal brother.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said that he and his wife, Lisa, had been friends with McEachin and his wife, Colette, who is the commonwealth’s attorney in Richmond, for more than 20 years. 

“We often bonded over stories and laughs about our mutual challenges raising families with three strong-willed daughters,” Warner said in a statement. “Up until the very end, Don was a fighter. Even though he battled cancer and faced other trials in recent years, he never lost his focus on social and environmental justice.” 

Markus Schmidt

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at markus@cardinalnews.org.