Delaware Congressional candidate Sarah McBride casts herself as a staunch supporter of Israel

McBride, vying to become the first transgender lawmaker in Congress, expressed support for the Abraham Accords and for taking a tougher line against antisemitism in an interview with JI

Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride, a leading Democratic candidate for Delaware’s only House seat, framed herself as a staunch supporter of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship, as well as a committed fighter against antisemitism, in a recent interview with Jewish Insider — a position that could place her on more solid footing with the pro-Israel community than Delaware’s current House member.

McBride, a state senator since 2021 who previously worked on Democratic political campaigns and in the Obama White House with a focus on LGBTQ advocacy, is running for the at-large House seat being vacated by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), who is mounting a bid to be the state’s next senator.

McBride — known on the national stage as the first openly transgender state senator in U.S. history, an ally of fellow Delawarean President Joe Biden and a 2016 Democratic National Convention speaker — established herself as an early front-runner, with a $414,000 fundraising haul in her first month in the race. She now faces challengers in Delaware State Treasurer Colleen Davis and Delaware State Housing Authority Director Eugene Young.

Blunt Rochester has previously been supportive of legislation by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) in favor of placing restrictions on U.S. aid to Israel, one of a series of policy positions that have sometimes placed Blunt Rochester at odds with members of the state’s pro-Israel community, even as they’ve maintained a relationship. McBride, however, told JI she wouldn’t be supportive of legislation like the McCollum bill.

McBride emphasized that federal law already contains protections to ensure that U.S. aid “shouldn’t be used in ways that contradict our values,” and voiced “serious concerns about any policy that would single out Israel and treat it differently than other countries that we support through foreign aid” or hold it “to a different standard.” 

Disputes between allies, she continued, “are best handled within our existing relationship.” She expressed support for the continued fulfillment of the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding for U.S. military aid to Israel.

McBride described the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel as “a bedrock of America’s national security and our global values” and as rooted in the U.S. and Israel’s “shared values” and “common goals of global security.”

“I believe it’s a critical relationship. It’s one that I will certainly work in Congress to continue to protect,” she continued. “And I believe that it sits right at the heart of our values as a democratic nation.”

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 04: Sarah McBride attends “Out in Office” panel at Tribeca Celebrates Pride Day at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studio on May 4, 2019 in New York City.

She expressed support for a two-state solution that allows “peace and security” for both the Israelis and Palestinians and is reached through “direct bilateral talks without preconditions or foreign interference.” Any agreement, she added, “must inherently affirm Israel’s right to exist.”

McBride also expressed her support for the Abraham Accords, highlighting the bipartisan support for the agreements across multiple administrations. She said the Accords could “underpin a future two-state solution” and support regional security for Israel and other nations. Expanding the Accords to include an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, she continued, would be a “significant step forward.”

She said she broadly supports Biden’s foreign policy agenda, which “strikes the right balance of promoting America’s values, advancing America’s interests, and expanding peace and security around the world” — a characterization that she extended to Biden’s handling of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

To address Iran’s nuclear program, which McBride described as an “existential risk” to Israel and security throughout the region, McBride supports a new nuclear deal, ideally one without sunsets, with strong inspection requirements “and other components to ensure that it’s robust as possible.”

McBride described herself as a leader within the Delaware Senate on combating antisemitism, noting her support, working with faith leaders in the state, for legislation protecting religious pluralism. She was a lead sponsor of the Religious Freedom for All Act, which added religion as a protected class for public accommodations.

McBride added that she has partnered with Delaware House members to sponsor legislation honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day, condemning antisemitism and marking the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

“This is an issue that I am deeply passionate about,” she said. “We all have a moral responsibility to call out antisemitism whenever it rears its ugly head… In Congress, I will seek to continue to use the elected position that I have to elevate the need for all of us to speak out against antisemitism, to fight against antisemitism, [and] to pass legislation.”

McBride expressed support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which she said she has and will continue to rely on in her work to combat antisemitism. She said she was “proud” that the State Department endorsed the IHRA definition in 2016. She added that she’s seen, through her work in LGBTQ advocacy, how antisemitism “serves as a safe harbor” for other forms of bigotry.

McBride said that legislation strengthening civil rights protections at the federal level, such as the Equality Act, would help protect religious observers by expanding the definition of public accommodations.

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 04: (L-R) Sarah McBride, House Rep. (PA) Malcolm Kenyatta, House Rep. (RI) David Cicilline and moderator Allison VanKuiken attend “Out in Office” panel at Tribeca Celebrates Pride Day at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studio on May 4, 2019 in New York City.

“Right now, the federal definition of public accommodations is fairly narrow, which means that people of faith have very limited protections at the federal level from discrimination in places that open their doors to serve the public,” she argued. “And we should be modernizing those laws to better protect people.”

Opponents have characterized the Equality Act, which focuses principally on protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as infringing on religious liberty.

Other policy areas McBride said she would prioritize in Congress include paid family and medical leave, affordable childcare, gun safety and expanding healthcare and abortion access.

“I am running for Congress because I believe that government has to work better for workers and families, especially when hard times hit,” she said. “What I’ve seen is that for us to truly meet the needs of workers and families across the state of Delaware, we need federal action and federal investment.”

In other interviews, McBride has rejected specific political labels or affiliations with any particular group within Congress.

If elected, McBride would be the first openly transgender member of Congress, at a time when Republicans at the state and federal levels have sought to crack down on gender-affirming care, particularly for minors.

McBride said that the election of an openly transgender member would “send an important and potentially life saving message to young trans people here in Delaware and across the nation, that the heart of our country is big enough to love them too.”

She emphasized that she’s “not running just to be the transgender member of Congress or not running just to make history,” but said that her election could “make a difference through cultural change that happens when you have an out transgender member of Congress.”

At the same time, she emphasized the importance of collaborating with colleagues across the aisle, which she said she has done successfully in the Delaware state Senate on issues from health care to anti-corruption measures. She said that, beyond hot-button issues, there are many areas where Democrats and Republicans agree, mentioning foreign policy specifically.

“I have to, as an elected official, recognize that there are going to be people who get elected to public office, who I not only vehemently disagree with, but who I disagree with on issues that are fundamental to my own dignity and humanity,” McBride said. “But in being elected to do this job — if I can find common ground with an individual who I disagree with on every other issue, but the one that’s before us — I won’t say no to collaborating. I won’t say no to finding a solution and a path forward.”

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