Lesbian Democrat Kerri Evelyn Harris, a community activist and member of the Delaware Human Relations Commission, announced last month that she will challenge Delaware’s incumbent U.S. Senator and longtime LGBT rights supporter Tom Carper in the Democratic primary in June.
In a development not widely reported outside of Delaware, Harris, 38, officially announced her candidacy on Feb. 20, the same day that gay financial services industry executive Eugene Truono, 59, announced he too was running for Carper’s Senate seat as a Republican.
The respective announcements by the two candidates represents the first known time an openly gay or lesbian candidate has run for a U.S. Senate seat in Delaware.
“I come from a diverse, multicultural family that instilled values of equality, opportunity, and respect for all people, regardless of background,” Harris said in a statement on her campaign website.
“My parents were advocates and organizers who taught us the value of public service,” the statement says. “My family history shaped the person I am today, and instilled these core values that continue to drive me.”
Harris told the Delaware News Journal she has been a Delaware resident “on and off” for 15 years. She currently lives in Dover and serves as a community organizer for several progressive advocacy groups, she told newspaper. She told the News Journal she has a seven-year-old daughter.
The write-up on her campaign website says she served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years and was involved with transporting troops from Dover to military bases in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.
The write-up says she works in Wilmington as director of a program run by the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League called Achievement Matters, which helps disadvantaged middle school students.
Former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell appointed Harris to the state’s Human Relations Commission in October 2016, according to the commission’s records.
The commission, among other things, adjudicates discrimination complaints filed under procedures established by the state’s comprehensive human rights law that bans discrimination based on a wide range of categories, including race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Harris told the News Journal she declines to characterize herself in her race against Carper in the Democratic primary as a left-leaning progressive candidate compared to Carper’s record as a moderate Democrat. But her positions on a wide range of issues posted on her campaign website, including her support for a government run “single payer” plan for universal health insurance, are consistent with the Democrats’ progressive wing.
She has called Carper “a disconnected career politician who continues to vote against Delaware’s best interests to the benefit of corporate donors,” according to the News Journal.
Carper has disputed such characterizations, saying he has worked diligently for the interests of Delaware’s working class residents on a wide range of issues, including his advocacy for affordable health care. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights organization, has given Carper a rating of 100, its highest rating, on LGBT-related issues.
Gay Democratic activist Peter Schott, who has served as president of Stonewall Democrats of Delaware, an LGBT political group, said he is not aware of Harris being involved with that group or other LGBT groups in the state.
In her statement on her campaign website Harris says she would be a strong advocate for civil and human rights.
“Together, we must work to dismantle structural and institutional discrimination such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism,” her statement says. “Ending discrimination is not a zero-sum game, and as long as some of our neighbors are suffering from bigotry, none of us are truly free.”