Delaware’s only House member enters Senate race, becoming instant favorite
By Luke Broadwater
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat, announced her campaign Wednesday for the Delaware Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Carper, beginning as the favorite in a race that could make her the third Black woman in U.S. history to win election to the Senate.
Blunt Rochester, 61, a close ally of President Joe Biden, made a 3.5-minute biographical video that focuses on her faith, how she overcame the untimely death of her husband and her experience during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, when she prayed while trapped in the House balcony as rioters laid siege to the building.
“The run for the Senate for me is also about protecting our democracy, and that includes voting rights, and also for protecting our freedoms, like reproductive rights,” Blunt Rochester said in an interview.
Blunt Rochester is the only House member in Delaware, a deep-blue state in which the winner of the Democratic primary will be heavily favored to win the general election. Powerful Democrats, including Carper, for whom Blunt Rochester once interned, and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, have indicated support for her candidacy. Carper said he would do everything in his power to ensure that she won.
If elected, Blunt Rochester, who previously served as Delaware’s labor secretary, deputy secretary of health and social services, and state personnel director, would be the state’s first female senator and first Black senator.
She said her first priority would be to push for passage of voting rights legislation, and advocate for eliminating the legislative filibuster to make that possible.
Biden has counted on Blunt Rochester as a close adviser during her four terms in the House. She was national co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign and is known to keep the president abreast of happenings on Capitol Hill.
“When he would call me, he was getting a real broad lay of the land of what’s happening in the House,” she said of Biden.
Blunt Rochester is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues and both the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the more centrist New Democrat Coalition. She has also served in leadership.
She said she felt she had the president’s encouragement to run.
“It was more us having a conversation about making sure that there was representation in the Senate,” she recalled. “He didn’t say, ‘Hey, Lisa, you should run for Senate.’ He said, ‘Lisa, whatever you decide to do, I think you would be great at it.’”
Shortly after Carper announced his retirement, Schumer spoke by phone with Blunt Rochester and told her he believed that she could be a very good senator, according to an aide to the top Democrat.
“It was just a very encouraging call, just saying he was looking forward to having a longer and deeper conversation with me, but that he was very excited about the potential of me running,” Blunt Rochester said.