When four-term U.S. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware announced a month ago that he was not seeking re-election, he didn’t hesitate when asked who he wanted to replace him in Washington.
The incumbent named trailblazing fellow Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester, who is in her fourth term as Delaware’s lone member of the House of Representatives.
Blunt Rochester didn’t dissuade Carper’s endorsement, and on Wednesday Delaware’s first female and first Black member of Congress made it official.
“Representing the First State has been the honor of my life,’’ the 61-year-old Blunt Rochester said during a three minute, 34-second video announcement released by her campaign. “I look forward to continuing to represent and deliver for all of Delaware from Wilmington and New Castle County, to Kent County, and down to Sussex County in the United States Senate.’’
No other Democrats or Republicans have yet entered the 2024 race for the six-year term in Delaware. Democrats hold a nearly 2-1 voter registration advantage in the state and hold all nine statewide elective offices.
Julianne Murray, chair of the state Republican party, did not respond to a request for comment on Blunt Rochester’s announcement or the GOP’s plans to contest for the seat.
Before being elected to Congress in 2016, Blunt Rochester had been head of the state’s Labor and Human Services departments, and was deputy secretary of the state Department of Health and Social Services.
Politics is also in her blood. Her father Ted Blunt spent 24 years on Wilmington City Council, eight of them as the governing body’s president.
Blunt Rochester’s campaign announcement touted her successes in Congress, such as “passing legislation to bring American manufacturing jobs home and spur agricultural production, leading the charge to lower seniors’ health care costs, working to create safer communities, and expanding access to cleaner air and water.”
Her platform in the race for the Senate centers “on a promise to continue her work to create good jobs and access to opportunity, to protect our seniors, and to secure our fundamental freedoms — from reproductive freedom to voting rights,’’ her campaign said.
The campaign announcement also highlights her experience during the Jan. 6 insurrection and the national attention she received as she prayed in the House balcony while security tried to keep people out of the chamber. “I prayed for love over hate, and hope over fear,” she says in the announcement video. “People ask me if January 6 was my worst day. It was, but it was also one of my proudest moments because we walked back in that House chamber and we completed our work.”
Just as Carper’s decision not to seek re-election opened up the Senate seat, Blunt Rochester’s departure from the U.S. House creates a vacancy for that post.
In an interview with WHYY News, Blunt Rochester said she will not take sides in the race to replace her but will support the Democratic nominee. Possible
Democratic candidates include former Wilmington mayoral candidate Eugene Young and state Sen. Sarah McBride.
And should she be elected to succeed Carper, Blunt Rochester said she will approach being one of 100 senators just as she has as one of 435 members of the House.
‘What this means for the future and for the Senate to me is doing that same work, but at a deeper level and being able to also focus on things like our democracy, voting rights, reproductive health, the appointment of judges,’’ she said. “And so for me, it’s a chance to serve the state that I love at an even deeper level.
She also pledged to always work to build bridges with senators, regardless of their political persuasion.
“I came into Congress in the minority. It was Republican control. I’ve also served in the majority and back in the minority,’’ she said. “And no matter what, I’ve learned to try to find ways to find common ground so that we could accomplish our goals.”
Blunt Rochester released her video at 8 a.m., and an hour later Carper praised her decision in a news release, saying she’s “admired by Democrats and Republicans alike for her boundless energy and her ability to build bipartisan coalitions and get things done on issues as diverse as climate change, health care, and workforce development.”
Carper’s statement added that Blunt Rochester “believes that there is dignity in work, and she believes in the ancient proverb: ‘If you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. But if you teach a person to fish, you feed them and their family for a lifetime.’”
“Serving the people of Delaware alongside Lisa has been one of the great joys of my life. She is just the kind of leader that we’ll need in the U.S. Senate in the days ahead, and she will make us proud. Indeed, she already has!”