Much LGBTQ+ history is being made in Delaware, with two out candidates defeating longtime incumbents in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Eric Morrison, a gay man, bested Earl Jaques in the race for the state’s House of Representatives in the 27th District. During the campaign, Jaques, a conservative Democrat who had voted against marriage equality and a conversion therapy ban, had criticized Morrison for performing in drag. Jaques later apologized. Marie Pinkney, who identifies as queer, beat David McBride in 13th District race for state Senate.
Their victories are in addition to that of Sarah McBride, the transgender woman who won the state Senate Democratic primary in the First District and is on track to become Delaware’s first trans legislator. Her father, Dave McBride, a lawyer, is not the same person as the state senator defeated by Pinkney.
The three victories in the heavily Democratic state mean that Delaware is likely to go from having no legislators from the LGBTQ+ community to having three after the November general election. And the three would include one Black queer lawmaker, Pinkney.
Morrison is a former teacher who has also been a business consultant and now works in human resources for a bank. His opponent, Jaques, has been in office since 2009. Morrison beat Jaques by a margin of 61.1 percent to 38.8 percent, the Washington Blade reports.
Last year, Jaques objected to Morrison holding a drag show as a campaign fundraiser. “That is so far off-base for our district, it’s unbelievable,” he told The News Journal, a Delaware newspaper. “You wonder what the point is. You can have fundraisers, I don’t care about that. But dressing in drag? Really?”
He pointed to the numerous churches in the district, saying, "I’m not sure he represents the people who attend those places of religion. If he’s actually having a fundraiser in drag, I don’t think those churches would endorse that … I’m just saying it’s a little different, that’s for sure.”
Jaques subsequently apologized, with a statement saying his comments were “insensitive, hurtful, and simply wrong.” He added, “It is wrong to attempt to pass judgment or impose one person’s belief structure onto others. My job as a State Representative is to represent all constituents of the 27th District, regardless of gender, race, creed, orientation or identity, period.”
Pinkney is a social worker and has been a foster mother. She is an active member of Christiana Care PRIDE, the LGBTQ+ employee resource group at her workplace. Her race against David McBride, Senate president pro tempore, turned on issues including gun control (he had blocked an assault weapons ban) and criminal justice reform (he had sponsored a bill supporting mandatory minimum sentencing for second offenders).
He has been a state legislator for 42 years, making him the second-longest-serving lawmaker in Delaware history, according to the Delaware State News. But Pinkney beat him by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. “That’s a huge victory,” Progressive Democrats of Delaware President Jordyn Pusey told the Associated Press.
Her primary win win and those of two other Black candidates mean the number of Black state legislators in Delaware could increase from eight to 11 after November, the State News notes.
Morrison will face Republican Tripp Keister and Libertarian William Hinds in the general election, while Pinkney will be up against Republican Alexander Homich.
Delaware has had one state legislator from the LGBTQ+ community, State Sen. Karen Peterson, who came out as gay while in office in 2013 but 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 the LGBTQ Victory Fund; the others are Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.