Transgender State Senate Candidate Wins Primary in Delaware

LGBT rights activist Sarah McBride speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia
Out transgender Delaware State Senate hopeful Sarah McBride, speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, is on the verge of making history after winning her primary race on September 15.
Reuters/ Mike Segar

Sarah McBride, an out transgender spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, easily won her Democratic primary race for State Senate in Delaware on September 15, marking a major step in her quest to become the highest-ranking out trans lawmaker in the nation and the first out trans elected official in her state.

McBride crushed her opponent, Joseph McCole, 91.3 percent to 8.7 percent in the state’s State Senate District One, which includes the city of Wilmington. As of September 16, McBride tallied 7,902 votes, while McCole only had 752 votes. Those numbers included mail-in and absentee ballots.

McBride, 30, declared victory shortly after 9 p.m. on election night when she wrote a celebratory post on Twitter.

HRC spokesperson, once a lighting rod for transphobic attacks, wins over voters in heavily Democratic district

“We are proving what is possible when neighbors come together,” McBride wrote in a tweet. “This victory is not mine. It belongs to so many — our grassroots volunteers and donors, our cheerleaders and supporters. I am beyond proud. I am beyond grateful.”

The victory for McBride in the open primary competition was also significant because she is expected to have a major advantage in the general election in a district where outgoing Democratic State Senator Harris B. McDowell III has held his seat for more than four decades.

McBride is slated to face off in the general election against Steve Washington, a Democrat-turned-Republican who ran as an independent candidate for mayor in Wilmington in 2016. He finished in third place in the general election that year, landing seven percent of the vote.

McBride, HRC’s national press secretary, drew national attention in 2016 when she delivered a speech at the Democratic National Convention. She has long-established ties to Democratic political circles, having worked on the late Beau Biden’s successful campaign for state attorney general in Delaware in 2010 and subsequently serving as a White House intern in the Obama administration. She eventually became a lobbyist focused on advancing LGBTQ rights legislation, first in her home state.

On her campaign website, McBride expressed support for increasing the minimum wage, banning employers from asking job applicants about criminal records, and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but she appears to take a more incremental approach to a range of other issues. She is calling for more “access” to “affordable” early childhood education programs and is supportive of “expanding access” to healthcare and lowering insurance costs.

Following the election, McBride’s employer celebrated the historic nature of her victory.

“Next year, as the first transgender state senator in our nation, Sarah will show that any child can achieve their dream, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” HRC’s president, Alphonso David, said in a written statement.

McBride has endured transphobic attacks in recent years that have been largely driven by trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs. Posie Parker and Julia Long, a pair of women associated with that group from Britain, barged into one of McBride’s meetings in January of last year and proceeded to harass her, misgender her, and hold a camera in her face while they verbally attacked her.

The two women peddled false transphobic narratives that mocked the ongoing effort to allow transgender prisoners to be housed in accordance with their gender identity.

“Why are you championing the rights of men to access women in women’s prisons?” Long asked McBrie in that video-recorded scene. “And rape and sexually assault them as recently happened in the United Kingdom?”

If she is victorious in the general election for State Senate, McBride will join a handful of other out trans legislators, including Colorado Representative Brianna Titone, New Hampshire State Representatives Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker, and Virginia State Delegate Danica Roem, who is the first out trans person to be elected to a state legislature in the US. Transgender candidates have also made headway in local governments. In 2017, two Black transgender candidates — Phillipe Cunningham and Andrea Jenkins — won election to the 13-member Minneapolis City Council.

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