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Housing Director Young announces bid for Congress

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Eugene Young Delaware State Housing Authority

Delaware State Housing Authority Director Eugene Young announced Monday that he will run for Congress in 2024. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – Delaware State Housing Authority Director Eugene Young Jr. announced Monday that he will run for the state’s lone congressional seat, setting up at least a competitive three-way race to date.

Young joins a field that already includes State Sen. Sarah McBride and state Treasurer Colleen Davis, who are running for the Democratic nomination to succeed Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who is running for U.S. Senate in 2024. No Republicans have officially filed in the race yet.

If elected, Young would be the first Black man to serve in Congress for Delaware.

His entry into the campaign comes as little surprise after telling supporters weeks ago that he was interested in replacing the incumbent congresswoman. He shared his decision to run in an email to supporters and is meeting supporters in Wilmington Monday night.

Young, a husband and father of two, is a Wilmington native who lost the mayoral primary election to current Mayor Mike Purzycki by less than 250 votes in 2016. A community activist and organizer, Young is well-known in his hometown city but is launching his first statewide campaign.

Young’s service to the community began 20 years ago when he founded Delaware Elite, a youth leadership development program that provided inner-city youth with academic enrichment, leadership training, and college access.

“I had to work overnight shifts at the Hotel DuPont cleaning shoes and picking up dry cleaning in order to spend all my time and money on teaching kids how to personally and academically develop,” he said in his campaign announcement, recalling that a friend’s mother challenged him “to do something” about the issues he saw and heard about in the city. “I realized though that one person or even one organization is not enough to tackle the tough issues facing our community.”

After graduating from college, Young went to work in the office of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and then came back to Wilmington, where he helped launch Network Delaware, a nonprofit that trains people across Delaware on how to civically engage with existing organizations, run for office, or push for policy change. 

After his unsuccessful mayoral run – albeit a surprisingly good showing for a newcomer to state politics – Young was named president and CEO of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, a nonprofit that empowers people of color to achieve economic self-reliance, parity and civil rights.

Gov. John Carney then called upon him in 2021 to join his Cabinet and take over as leader of the state’s housing agency, where he has helped increase the state’s investment from about $10 million to $122 million – a sum that includes federal funds allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act. That role has taken Young across the state, but DSHA is still one of the lesser-known Cabinet positions.

“However, it’s not enough to just change state policy. We also have to change federal policy and build a nationwide sense of urgency,” Young said in his announcement. “I’m running for Congress because I still believe we’re a state of neighbors.”

In running for Congress, Young will start from a financial disadvantage with no prior campaign funds to move into his federal campaign. McBride has already raised more than $400,000 while Davis had at least $20,000 to transfer over earlier this year.

Young will also start with fewer high-profile endorsements still in play for the race that has heated up in the last four weeks.

McBride has already secured endorsements from many top state Democrats not looking at federal runs, including Attorney General Kathy Jennings, Auditor Lydia York, Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro, Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola and former Lt. Gov. Matt Denn.

Meanwhile, Davis announced Monday a slate of endorsements from 10 mayors across the state, including the leaders of Dover, Middletown, Georgetown and Milford, some of Delaware’s largest municipalities.

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