State Senator Sarah McBride announced on Monday that she would run for Delaware’s at-large U.S. House seat — a bid that, if successful, would make her the first openly transgender member of the U.S. Congress.
The seat is currently held by Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat who said on Wednesday that she would pursue the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Thomas R. Carper, who is retiring. Both elections will take place next year.
Ms. McBride, 32, is no stranger to firsts: In 2012, she became the first openly transgender person to work at the White House, as an intern in President Barack Obama’s administration. She won her Wilmington-based State Senate seat in 2020 with more than 70 percent of the general election vote, becoming the first openly transgender legislator in that position nationwide, and ran unopposed for a second term last year.
Her candidacy comes during an onslaught of Republican-led policies that target L.G.B.T.Q. people.
This year, 17 states have passed bills directed at gender-affirming care for transgender youth, a sharp uptick from the three states that had previously approved restrictions. And there are discussions to ban L.G.B.T.Q.-related information for K-12 students in states like Florida, where laws prevent public schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Ms. McBride, also a former national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy organization, is likely to face a primary challenge in her solidly blue district. But she holds ample political capital in the state — helped by her relationship with President Biden, who wrote the foreword for the memoir she wrote in 2018. She also worked on the attorney general campaigns for Beau Biden, his son who died in 2015.
Ms. McBride recently spoke with The New York Times about her candidacy. Excerpts from this conversation have been edited for clarity and length.
What issues do you hope to prioritize in your campaign?
There were so many pieces of the Build Back Better Act that were unfortunately left on the cutting room floor, and it is going to be critical for Congress to pick up those policies, like paid family and medical leave, affordable early childhood education and elder care. Those types of policies will be at the heart of my campaign, as will policies that I fought for in the Delaware General Assembly, like gun safety and reproductive rights. One of the issues where we have to continue to make progress is climate change. We can’t build a fairer, more just world if we also don’t protect our planet.
A wave of bills in recent years have affected transgender people, like limiting transitioning procedures for children and restricting which bathrooms transgender people can use. What are your concerns going forward?
The policies that you mentioned are wrong and unconstitutional, and they are an attempt by MAGA Republicans to distract from the fact that they have absolutely no agenda for families and for workers in our country. They are solutions in search of a problem. They are cruel, and we know that policies that target young people, that target parents, that target families, that target vulnerable people in our society, they never wear well in history. I truly believe that democracy only works when it includes all of us.
What should members of your party do to respond to these laws?
I’m incredibly proud that the Democratic Party has been unwavering in its support of L.G.B.T.Q. rights. We have seen Democrats from Montana, to Nebraska, to Virginia, to Delaware, who have made clear that attacks on vulnerable members of our communities, including L.G.B.T.Q. young people, will not stand, and we will do everything we can to stop them.
People across this country are eager for politicians to appeal to our better angels and to focus on issues that actually matter to them. I don’t believe that targeting kids and parents for discrimination is a priority for voters in Delaware or across the country.
Going into 2024, President Biden is struggling to maintain public approval. In your view, what should he and other Democrats be thinking about?
Democrats have a strong record to run on, and there’s obviously unfinished work before us. This president has focused on working families, on recognizing that we all have a responsibility to one another. I think if this president continues to contrast his priorities with the invented problems and the culture wars of the right, that this president will win.
There’s a sort of scrutiny that historically has come with being the first of anything. Are you concerned about backlash?
There will certainly be attacks, but I’m no stranger to those. What I’ve demonstrated over the last few years is that I’m able to move past those attacks and focus on what matters to the people I represent. Congress is certainly different than the Delaware State Senate, but I am confident that when I get there, by focusing on issues that impact people of every party, of every ideology, and in every part of our state, that I’ll be able to find common ground with people whom I disagree with vehemently.