Representative Jennifer Wexton, Democrat of Virginia, announced Monday that she will not seek re-election next year after being diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder.
55 year old Mrs. Wexton, who represents a competitive district in the Virginia suburbs west of Washington, D.C., said in a statement that he has progressive supernuclear palsy. described in a report “Parkinson’s on Steroids.”
“I am heartbroken to have to give up something I love after so many years of service to my community,” he 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, Mrs. Wexton announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, saying at the time that it would not stop him from continuing to live his life or continue his political career.
“I’m fine and I want to bring as much good as I can out of this diagnosis — including here in Congress,” Ms. Wexton said. Wrote in XThe site formerly known as Twitter.
However, he wrote in his statement on Monday, he noticed that people in his Parkinson’s support group didn’t have the experience he had and he wasn’t making as much progress as he had hoped. He sought other medical opinions and tests, which led to his new diagnosis, he said.
Mrs. Wexton said he plans to serve out the rest of his term.
“My time in Congress will end soon,” Ms. Wexton said, “I am as confident and determined as ever to continue the work that first got me into this fight in the time I have left. The office — to help create the future we want for our children.”
What is progressive supranuclear palsy?
It is not unusual for people with progressive supranuclear palsy, also known as PSP, to be misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, as Ms. Wexton was. Both disorders share many symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing, speech and balance problems.
PSP is caused by damage to nerve cells in the areas of the brain that control thought and body movement. It affects walking and balance and eye movement, and progresses faster than Parkinson’s disease. There is currently no treatment that effectively stops or reduces the progression or symptoms of the disorder National Institutes of Health.
Symptoms usually appear in the mid- to late 60s, rather than the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms. Most people with PSP develop severe disability within three to five years of the onset of symptoms, and may experience serious complications such as pneumonia, choking, or risk of head injuries from falls. It can also cause changes in behavior 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. He came to Congress with two Democratic women who flipped seats in Virginia, Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria.
While Ms. Luria lost her re-election bid last year, Ms. Wexton won her third term by six points. But Ms. Wexton’s district, one of the wealthiest in the country, is competitive and likely to be even more so without a challenger.
Ms. Wexton’s decision not to seek re-election gives Republicans, who hold a slim majority in the House, a chance to pick up a seat in the 2024 election, when Democrats look to regain control of the chamber.
Annie Gurney Contributed report.