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Sarah McBride: State legislatures 'a Democratic safeguard' against Trump, conservative court

Sarah McBride: State legislatures 'a Democratic safeguard' against Trump, conservative court
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Delaware state Senate nominee and transgender activist Sarah McBride (D) is reminding voters that down ballot races matter too, touting state legislatures as a “safeguard” for the rights and values of all Americans.

“State legislatures are going to need to lead the way in defending our residents’s rights, and dignity, and opportunity, and to build on what we already have,” McBride, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, said in an interview with The Hill on Tuesday. 

McBride, who calls herself a health care and paid leave candidate, is set to make history in November. After defeating fellow Democrat Joseph McCole in last week’s primary for the 1st state Senate district with 91 percent of the vote, she is all but certain to become the first openly transgender state senator in the U.S. and America’s highest-ranking openly transgender elected official.

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Her run is taking place during one of the most divided, tumultuous periods in U.S. political history, that has become even more so following last week’s death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgMcConnell tees up Barrett nomination, setting up rare weekend session Jaime Harrison raises million in two weeks for South Carolina Senate bid Dozens of legal experts throw weight behind Supreme Court term limit bill MORE and the subsequent play Republicans have made for her seat less than 50 days out from Election Day. 

“It has reinforced and compounded the stakes of this election,” McBride said.

“It’s also reinforced the importance of state legislatures to be a Democratic safeguard against a president who has little regard for Democratic values and a court that could seek to undermine our most basic rights and our most cherished principles,” she added. 

McBride rose to national prominence in 2016 at the Democratic National Convention, where she became the first transgender individual to speak at a major party convention. 

In the roughly four minute address, McBride vouched for then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBon Jovi to campaign with Biden in Pennsylvania The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in Biden gets late boost with key union endorsement MORE, while invoking her late husband and fellow LGBTQ activist, Andrew Cray, who she calls an “inspiration.” 

“His life was tragically cut short, but not before he was able to help bring about incredibly meaningful progress for people, and he lives on in the work that he did,” McBride told The Hill. “In many ways, his passing reinforced and reinspired my desire to do all I can to help bring about the change that so many of us in this world still so desperately need.” 

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Cray and McBride worked in the Obama administration, and his death from cancer helped form a bond between her and Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE

McBride worked on Biden’s late son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s 2010 campaign, leading to a friendship between the two. 

“He was the real deal,” McBride said, referring to Beau Biden. “He was as good and decent and kind behind closed doors as he was out in public.” 

McBride later worked with Beau Biden to pass landmark nondiscrimination legislation in Delaware in 2013. 

“He stuck his neck out there for that bill at a time when embracing trans rights was still incredibly controversial,” she said. 

Beau Biden passed away in 2015 as a result of brain cancer following Cray’s death one year earlier from oral cancer. 

“Whenever we’re together, we talk about Beau and we talk about Andy,” McBride said, of her and Joe Biden. “What’s really profound for me is not just the support that Joe Biden has offered me as an advocate, as an LGBTQ person, as an American, but the personal support he and Dr. [Jill] Biden have provided me through my grief and through the hardship.” 

“He is someone who lost his spouse at an early age, at the age I am now,” she added. “He is uniquely able to help people find that light again and find that hope again. He’s done it for me, and I know he’ll do it for this country.” 

When asked about the skepticism and what many say is a lack of enthusiasm Biden faces as a candidate, McBride pointed to the former vice president’s character. 

“I’m not voting for Joe Biden because he’s not Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE,” she said. “I’m voting for Joe Biden because I’ve seen the decency and the compassion of the man.” 

“In many ways, this difficult moment in our country calls for the kind of leadership that can help us heal, that can help us find our hope again, and find our purpose again, and that’s the story of Joe Biden,” she said. 

The LGBTQ community is one of the voting blocks Democrats are relying on in 2020, hoping the group will put the party’s candidates over the edge in races up and down the ballot. 

Groups like the Human Rights Campaign are seeking to turn out what they call “Equality Voters,” who are individuals who will vote for candidates backing LGBTQ rights and against candidates who do not. 

This group is 57 million strong and made up 29 percent of the vote in the 2018 midterm elections, according to the Human Rights campaign. For reference, white Evangelical voters made up 26 percent of the electorate. 

“They [LGBTQ individuals] will play a critical role as voters who will determine not just who our next president and vice president are, but the Democrats that we elect up and down the ballot in November,” McBride said. 

McBride is widely expected to win her race against Republican Steve Washington in the state’s 1st District in November due to its heavy Democratic lean. 

However, McBride said that last week’s results gave her cause for hope far beyond her own electoral chances. 

“It has reinforced the fair mindedness of my neighbors, the fair mindedness of voters throughout the first Senate District, who are very clearly looking at candidates based on their ideas, based on their experience, based on their energy and creativity, not on their identity,” she said. 

“I think Tuesday’s results reinforced that and I am hopeful that November’s results will reinforce that.”