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State Sen. McBride to run for Congress

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State Sen. Sarah McBride Congress transgender

State Sen. Sarah McBride announced a run for Congress on Monday, becoming the first Democrat to enter the race to replace Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester who is running for the U.S. Senate. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – State Sen. Sarah McBride, the barrier-breaking politician who is the highest ranking transgender elected U.S. official, announced her anticipated campaign for Congress on Monday morning.

McBride, who was elected to represent her Wilmington suburb district in 2020, replacing retiring longtime legislative leader Harris McDowell III, would become the first transgender member of Congress, if elected. She is running for Delaware’s sole U.S. House of Representatives seat to be vacated by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who announced last week that she will instead run in 2024 for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Tom Carper.

The 32-year-old McBride has gained a national profile due to her life story and advocacy, and is a close colleague of President Joe Biden, who wrote the foreword in her 2018 book, “Tomorrow Will Be Different” and hosted her just this month for a Pride Month ceremony. She also interned in the Obama White House while Biden served as vice president.

In a nearly two-minute campaign video released Monday morning, McBride touted a wide-ranging campaign agenda of health care and criminal justice reform, climate change advocacy, gun violence reduction and protecting reproductive health care. She also played into the national campaign landscape by featuring clips of Republican firebrands like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert juxtaposed with a photo of her with President Biden.

“Too many politicians want to divide us; tell us that teachers, doctors and even our own neighbors are the enemy. Waking up in noise and focusing on what actually matters isn’t easy … That takes guts and a backbone,” she said in the video. “My commitment is to the people in Delaware who aren’t seen, who don’t shout the loudest or fund political campaigns: Parents busy raising their children. Seniors worried about paying for prescription drugs. Working people struggling to keep up.

“Everyone deserves a member of Congress who sees them and who respects them,” she said.

A Wilmington native and graduate of the Cab Calloway School of the Arts, McBride was a campaign staffer for then-Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s 2010 campaign and Gov. Jack Markell’s 2008 campaign. She publicly announced her transition while serving as elected student body president at the Washington, D.C.-based American University, a story that gained attention from national news organizations.

She entered Delaware politics in 2013 as an advocate of Equality Delaware, leading the lobbying effort for legislation to add gender identity and expression as a protected class from discrimination in employment, housing, insurance, and public accommodations. That effort narrowly passed the State Senate by a single vote and then-Gov. Markell largely credited the lobbying of McBride for the success.

Afterward, McBride became the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ political lobbying organization within the United States.

She also married her boyfriend, Andrew Clay, who was also a transgender advocate, after he received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Four days after their marriage, he passed.

After being elected to the State Senate’s First District, a Democrat-heavy area that includes Claymont, Bellefonte and Edgemoor, McBride put an emphasis on passing the Healthy Delaware Families Act that established a social insurance program to provide paid family and medical leave to state workers.

The law was initially criticized by the business community, which decried its costs particularly on small businesses, but McBride organized a listening campaign after her first legislative session. She also worked with business leaders to dilute its impact on employers, and successfully shepherded it to passage in 2022. Its regulatory framework is still being developed and the business community has continued to raise some concerns about how the program will work.

McBride is the first candidate to enter the newly wide-open U.S. House race in Delaware, and she has gathered the support of many state Democratic Party leaders. The House seat is deemed reliably Democratic by most national pundits, with the party winning the last seven state-wide elections by large margins. Republicans haven’t captured the seat since former Gov. Mike Castle won it in 2008.

McBride is expected to face a contested primary, however, with Delaware State Housing Authority Director Eugene Young, a longtime Wilmington public servant, among those who have expressed interest in the race. Notably, McBride released a list of endorsements led by Attorney General Kathy Jennings, suggesting that she isn’t eyeing the House race as some insiders suggested she might. Seven state senators, including Senate Pro Tempore David Sokola, and 14 House Democrats have backed McBride too.

She enters the race with only about $85,000 in her campaign war chest from the state legislature, as of year-end 2022, and will need to raise significant additional campaign funding. A newly launched federal campaign for McBride has not yet been required to file a finance report, but McBride reported the day after announcing her campaign that she had raised about $315,000 – an enormous one-day haul for a Delaware House race.

McBride’s national profile is likely to help in fundraising. For example, the New York Times interviewed McBride on Monday after her announcement in addition to local outlets, rare coverage for a small, non-battleground House race. National organizations like Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund have also endorsed her campaign as well, which could help funnel funding to the race.

Even if her campaign falls short, McBride will retain her State Senate seat, having been elected to a new four-year term in 2022 following the reapportionment of the legislature. A successful run will require her First District seat to be filled for the remaining two years.

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