Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester to launch run for Delaware Senate seat in June

Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Delaware’s lone member of the House, will launch a bid this month for her state’s open Senate seat, according to her advisors.

Her glide path to the nomination in a deep-blue state makes it highly likely she could become the third Black woman to ever serve in the Senate. Blunt Rochester, who joined the House in 2017, has begun hiring campaign staff ahead of an expected announcement. The congresswoman will run for the seat, said her advisors, who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss her plans. But she has delayed a formal kickoff out of respect for her mentor Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who revealed just last week he would retire after four terms in the Senate.

Carper endorsed Blunt Rochester last Monday during his announcement. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also said he believed the congresswoman would make a good senator.

Blunt Rochester was the first woman and person of color to represent Delaware in Congress. In a brief interview last week, she recalled standing on the steps of the Capitol as an intern for Carper thinking she might want to pursue public office one day. But she described her rise as somewhat improbable.

“It literally took 30 years before I even ran for Congress. And I did that after the unexpected death of my husband,” Blunt Rochester said. “And I ran even though I had never run for anything, as a widow, over 50, Black, woman, and we made history.”

After serving in several high-level positions in state government, Blunt Rochester won a six-way Democratic primary for the at-large district in 2016 with 44 percent of the vote. She described her winning message as one that focused on jobs, the economy and “bringing people together.”

She said she planned to campaign aggressively for the seat, despite its status as a reliable blue state. (President Joe Biden, a former Delaware senator himself, won it by 20 points in 2020.)

She has begun building out a Senate campaign team: AL Media, which worked on President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, will make her TV ads and her pollster will be David Petts.

Few serious contenders are expected to run against her in the primary.

Several left-wing strategists and elected officials said that while they don’t necessarily consider her one of their own, they are comfortable with Blunt Rochester, who they see as far more liberal than Carper. Blunt Rochester is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Kerri Evelyn Harris, a progressive who was backed by national liberal groups Our Revolution and Justice Democrats when she unsuccessfully challenged Carper in 2018, said she would not run for the Senate next year if Blunt Rochester went for the seat. Now a state representative, Harris said she has worked with Blunt Rochester to help underserved areas.

“More important than a title such as a progressive, what I try to really push home with people is being people-centered. And I feel that whenever I’ve come to her with issues of concern from the community, she’s jumped on it,” she said. “She is our best option.”

Progressive Jess Scarane, however, did not rule out a run in 2024. The unsuccessful 2020 Senate candidate said she is focused on “electing more legislators that will fight for the working class” and that she is “still deciding on my plans for the next few years.”

But Delaware is an incumbent-friendly state and Carper’s endorsement helps pave the way for Blunt Rochester. The two have known each other for decades. Carper recalled first meeting Blunt Rochester when he was a congressman and she came to one of his events with her young child in her arms.

“She said to me at the end of the town hall meeting, ‘I’m interested in finding a way to become involved in public life. Do you have any ideas?’” he said. “She would end up as my intern, member of my staff in the governor’s office, Deputy Secretary of Health and Social Services and Secretary of Labor when I was governor and a lifelong friend.”

“I think she’d be a pretty darn good successor,” he said.

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