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HRC Spokesperson Sarah McBride Makes Trans History With Primary Win

Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride has won the Democratic primary for Delaware State Senate in the state’s First District, putting her on track to become Delaware’s first out transgender legislator.

McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, bested Joseph McCole by 93 percent to 7 percent in Tuesday’s primary, The New York Times reports. The incumbent, Democrat Harris McDowell, did not seek reelection; he has been a senator since 1976. In November, McBride will face Steve Washington, who was unopposed for the Republican nomination. The district, like the state as a whole, is heavily Democratic, so McBride is likely to win.

The number of out trans people in state legislatures could more than double in this year’s election. Only four other out trans people have been elected to and served in state legislatures, and all still hold their seats. Danica Roem was reelected to the Virginia House of Delegates last year, and three trans state lawmakers are up for reelection in 2020: Reps. Lisa Bunker and Gerri Cannon in New Hampshire and Rep. Brianna Titone in Colorado.

In November, in addition to McBride, four nonincumbent state legislative candidates who are trans will be up for election: Stephanie Byers in Kansas, Madeline Eden in Texas, Jessica Katzenmeyer in Wisconsin, and Taylor Small in Vermont, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed all of them. 

“Sarah’s primary win shatters another lavender ceiling in our movement to build LGBTQ political power and her victory will inspire more transgender people to run for elected office,” Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker said in a press release. “At a time when the Trump administration, cynical politicians and too many state legislatures are attempting to use trans people as political weapons, Sarah’s win is a powerful reminder that voters are increasingly rejecting the politics of bigotry in favor of candidates who stand for equality.

“Three years ago there were zero out trans state legislators anywhere in the country, but each win reinvigorates a virtuous cycle that familiarizes voters with trans people and encourages more trans people to run. We are optimistic we can double the number of trans state legislators in 2020 — from four to at least eight — and their impact will be felt well-beyond the boundaries of their districts.”

HRC President Alphonso David also applauded McBride's victory, issuing this statement: “Sarah McBride is one of the most impressive people I have had the privilege to meet. From her brilliant policy expertise to her ability to inspire and empathize, Sarah is the epitome of what can make an elected official great. Tonight, she takes the first step on what I expect to be a storied career in the public realm.

“Sarah is no stranger to making history. As the first transgender speaker at a national party convention, Sarah spoke for a community long ignored and pushed to the sidelines. As the first transgender person to work at the White House, she spoke truth to power advocating for her community in halls that were unfamiliar to anyone similar to her. 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.

“While we will be sad to lose her as a staff member at the Human Rights Campaign, we are overjoyed to have been a piece of her story. Congratulations Sarah.”

Roem, elected in 2017, was the first out trans person to be elected to a state legislature and go on to serve. A trans woman was elected in New Hampshire in 2012 but withdrew before being sworn in, and at least one other was elected while not acknowledging her transgender status.

McBride will be not only Delaware’s first out trans lawmaker, but the first out member of the LGBTQ+ community overall elected to the legislature — a title she is likely to share with Eric Morrison, a gay cisgender man running for the Delaware House in the 27th District; he bested incumbent Earl Jaques in the Democratic primary, and he faces one Republican and one Libertarian in November. State Sen. Karen Peterson came out as gay while in office in 2013, but she did not seek reelection afterward. Delaware is one of just five states that have never elected an openly LGBTQ+ person to their legislatures, according to Victory Fund; the others are Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

McBride's history-making convention address came at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, making her the first out trans person to speak to a major party’s national convention. She has been at HRC since June 2016, having previously worked for the Center for American Progress, interned at the White House under President Obama, and been a staffer for former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and the late state Attorney General Beau Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

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