Carper Exit Could Pave Way for First Transgender Congress Member

  • Lisa Blunt Rochester likely to leave House seat for Senate bid
  • First transgender state senator Sarah McBride eyes House run

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Sen. Tom Carper’s decision not to seek a fifth term has set off a domino effect that could result in the first transgender member of Congress.

Delaware Democrat Sarah McBride, who in 2020 became the first openly transgender state senator in US history, is “quite likely” to run for Delaware’s at-large House seat, according to an advisor to McBride’s nascent campaign who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss early plans.

Such a candidacy would come at a time Republicans in legislatures across the country have moved to restrict bathroom access, gender-affirming health care, and library books with gay or transgender content. The US House voted 219-203 last month to bar transgender athletes assigned male at birth from participating in women’s or girls’ sports in schools (H.R. 734).

GOP Looks to Fire Up Base With Attacks on Transgender Rights

The path to a congressional seat would open if Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) seeks to succeed Carper in the Senate. Carper said Monday that he has encouraged Blunt Rochester to run. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-D.Y.) also spoke with Blunt Rochester following Carper’s announcement Monday and nudged her toward a Senate bid, according to a Schumer spokesperson.

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Sarah McBride

Blunt Rochester’s exit would create a rare opening for statewide office in Delaware, where Democrats typically win those jobs. Another open seat will be created by term limits on Gov. John Carney (D).

The McBride adviser said her campaign would quickly materialize after Blunt Rochester announces her own plans for 2024. The adviser said any campaign would likely focus on kitchen-table issues, including leading as state senator the passage of paid family and medical leave in Delaware.

Delaware Senator Tom Carper Isn’t Running for Re-election

McBride came out as transgender in 2012 when she was the outgoing president of the American University Student Government. She spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and published a memoir in 2018 with a forward by now-President Joe Biden.

Before her election in a district radiating north from Wilmington, McBride served as a spokesperson for the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. She also worked on Delaware campaigns for former Gov. Jack Markell (D) and the late state Attorney General Beau Biden (D), President Biden’s eldest son.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zach C. Cohen in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: George Cahlink at; Katherine Rizzo at

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