Activist and author, Sarah McBride, has announced that she is running for the Delaware Senate in 2020.
The 28-year-old Wilmington native will try to replace Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington North, who is retiring at the end of his term.
McBride rose to national prominence in 2016 when she became the first openly transgender person to speak at the Democratic National Convention. If elected, McBride would become not only the first out trans lawmaker in the state, but the first openly transgender state senator in U.S. history.
McBride, the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ civil rights advocacy group in the U.S., has been a longtime advocate for the trans community. She lobbied for the passage of Delaware’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act, which was signed into law in 2013. She’s also worked for former Gov. Jack Markell and Attorney General Beau Biden and protested for stricter gun laws in the state. McBride plans to stay in that position part-time during her campaign but if she wins the election, would step down to be a full-time legislator.
“I’ve spent my life standing up so that people can have dignity, peace of mind, and a fair shot at staying afloat and getting ahead,” McBride wrote in a Twitter announcement Tuesday morning. “Our neighbors still need someone to fight for them.”
“Sen. McDowell’s retirement at the end of this term is a well-deserved cap on a remarkable career of public service, and now our neighbors need someone who will continue to fight for them,” she said.
Her statement notes that she has been active in local politics and issue campaigns beginning at a young age, and while in college at American University in D.C. she served as an intern at the Obama White House, becoming the first openly transgender person to work in any capacity at the White House.
In 2013, McBride joined the Board of Directors of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality Delaware and became one of the leading advocates for the state’s gender identity non-discrimination legislation. Then-Gov. Jack Markell signed the measure into law in June 2013.
Delaware’s 1st Senate District includes parts of Wilmington and the towns of Bellefonte and Claymont in New Castle County.
If McBride wins, she’ll be the first openly transgender state senator in the United States. Another trans woman, Danica Roem, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, unseating a 13-term Republican incumbent who introduced a “bathroom bill” to block transgender people from using facilities that matched their gender identity.
Roem responded to McBride’s candidacy, tweeting “I’m proud of you, @SarahEMcBride. Go win.”
The same year as Roem’s victory, two transgender Minnesotans, Andrea Jenkins and Philippe Cunningham, were elected to the city council Minneapolis, and another, Lisa Middleton, won a city council race in Palm Springs, California.
In 2012 another trans woman, Stacie Laughton, was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. But Laughton stepped down before taking office after critics complained her suspended sentence for credit-card fraud made her ineligible to run for office.
As of the time she announced her candidacy for the State Senate seat on Tuesday, no other candidate had come forward to run for the seat. Political observers say they expect one or more other Democrats to challenge McBride for the nomination for the seat in the September 2020 Democratic primary in a district in which Democrats are the clear majority.
Her campaign is expected to focus on broad-appeal issues like paid family leave, health care and “policies that impact people the most,” she told the Delaware News Journal.
“At the end of the day, I’m not running to be a transgender state senator,” McBride told Wilmington’s radio news station WDEL FM. “I’m running to be a senator who serves her community, I’m running to be a senator who fights for affordable healthcare, I’m running to be a senator who works to expand access to paid leave and reform our broken criminal justice system,” she said. “Those will be my priorities.”
“I think voters don’t care about my gender,” McBride told The Advocate in an interview. “We’ve seen across the country that when trans candidates run, they win.”