Congresswoman Will Retire After Diagnosis Worsens

Democrat Jennifer Wexton of Virginia has 'Parkinson's on steroids'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2023 10:30 AM CDT
Congresswoman Will Retire After Diagnosis Worsens
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., speaks with reporters on Oct. 20 in Leesburg, Virginia.   (AP Photo/Matthew Barakat, File)

When congresswoman Jennifer Wexton of Virginia revealed that she had Parkinson's earlier this year, the 55-year-old said she planned to continue serving in Congress for years to come. On Monday, however, the Democrat announced that while she'll serve out her current term, she won't seek reelection because her diagnosis has changed for the worse, reports Politico. It turns out she has progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare neurological disorder that she describes as "a kind of 'Parkinson's on steroids'" in a statement. The two diagnoses are often initially confused with each other because the symptoms are similar.

"People I know know I've struggled for a long time," she told the Washington Post from her home in Leesburg. "I'll be able to relax and enjoy the time I have left and the time I have left in Congress." Wexton has two college-age sons with husband Andrew. "There is no 'getting better' with PSP," Wexton wrote in her statement, per NBC News. "I'll continue treatment options to manage my symptoms, but they don't work as well with my condition as they do for Parkinson's." She said the new diagnosis came after she realized she wasn't responding as well as hoped to treatment over the last few months.

Wexton unseated a Republican incumbent in 2018 as part of what was called a "blue wave" in Congress at the time. She won a closely watched reelection bid last year in her northern Virginia district and would have faced a grueling campaign to stay in office. The PSP already has affected her speech and ability to walk. "I'm heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community," she wrote. (More Jennifer Wexton stories.)

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