Virginia Democrat Retires, Makes History with Text-to-Speech Device on House Floor

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Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, is leaving office after being diagnosed with a debilitating disease known as "Parkinson's on steroids." Wexton, who won her seat in 2018, initially announced her Parkinson's diagnosis but stated her intention to remain in Congress. However, six months later, she changed course and announced her retirement at the end of her term. She explained that her symptoms were not responding to treatment as hoped and her doctors had revised her diagnosis to Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy.

Despite her illness, Wexton has made history by becoming the first member of Congress to use an Augmentative and Alternative Communication device on the House floor. This device translates text to speech, allowing her to address her colleagues despite her physical limitations. Wexton expressed her hope that her actions would demonstrate that even a debilitating diagnosis does not equate to powerlessness.

Wexton's retirement leaves her seat open, making it a highly competitive race in the upcoming November election. The Virginia primaries, scheduled for later this month, are expected to be fiercely contested, with experts predicting one of the most expensive Democratic congressional primaries in Virginia's history. This heightened competition reflects the changing political landscape in Virginia, which has shifted from solidly blue to a more purple state, raising concerns for Democrats and offering hope to supporters of former President Donald Trump.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09