Delaware’s Lisa Blunt Rochester sworn into Congress (updated with video)

    Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester speaking to supporters at a reception at the U.S. Capitol. (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

    Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester speaking to supporters at a reception at the U.S. Capitol. (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

    With the 115th Congress gaveled into session, the first woman and person of color elected to represent Delaware was sworn in in the U.S. Capitol today.

    The House convened at noon with 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats. Among the members are 52 freshmen, including Delaware’s Lisa Blunt Rochester. 

    After taking part in the House Speaker vote, Blunt Rochester made her way to a private reception in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where she greeted other members of Delaware’s Congressional Delegation, including outgoing Congressman John Carney, who was elected governor.

    Shortly thereafter, she participated in a mass swearing-in ceremony in the House chamber. 

    U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both D-Delaware, offered up their congratulations. 

    “Lisa exhibits all of the qualities of a good leader. She is humble, not haughty. She does the right thing, not the expedient thing. She has been and will continue to be a positive force for Delaware,” Sen. Carper said. “These qualities will guide her well as she looks to fill the shoes of John Carney, who is well respected in the House of Representatives.”

    Blunt Rochester served as an intern in Carper’s congressional office and quickly rose through the ranks, he said. 

    “She was a constituent caseworker focused on helping people experiencing hardships with their social security benefits, disability insurance claims, IRS disputes and housing needs. Later, when I served as Delaware’s governor, she was a pivotal part of my administration,” Carper continued.

    Blunt Rochester served as Delaware’s Deputy Secretary of Health and Social Services and then Secretary of the Department of Labor and State Personnel Director.

    “I am very excited to begin serving the people of Delaware and our country alongside Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester,” Sen. Coons said. “Lisa has served in two different governors’ cabinets, worked in both the private and the public sectors, and has an undeniable passion and natural ability to bring people together. She is well-prepared to represent our state and will be a tremendous advocate in Washington for the people of Delaware.”

    In addition to the other members of the Delaware delegation were members of the Delaware legislature.  Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, Representative Debra Heffernan of Bellefonte, Representative Stephanie Bolden of Wilmington, and educator Bebe Coker. 

    But, the surprise guest of the day was Vice President Joe Biden.  He told of his first run for the U.S. Senate in 1972. “We didn’t have red states and blue states then. Delaware was a republican state,” he said.  Biden said his victory against a popular incumbent were the beginning stages of the growth of the democratic party in Delaware. He told Blunt-Rochester he is gratified to see her swearing-in as a part of that process that began 44 years ago.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.