Bryan Townsend running for Congress

DOVER — Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, ranked in a tie as one of the two most liberal members of the state Senate, announced Thursday he is running for Delaware’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

His declaration comes just one day after Rep. John Carney, D-Del., announced plans to run for governor, leaving the seat open.

Sen. Townsend, a 34-year-old corporate lawyer, had been long rumored to be considering a campaign for Congress, something he acknowledged in August by saying he might run if the seat was open.

He is expected to compete for the Democratic nomination against Rep. Bryon Short, whose district covers the Arden area and has not officially declared. Rep. Short had previously said he would likely seek the office if it became open.

In contrast to Rep. Carney’s run for governor, Sen. Townsend plans to begin campaigning right away. He said his primary areas of focus will be social justice and economic inequality, something his official announcement referenced.

That statement also said he plans to promote education and provide retirement certainty.

The Democrat was recently ranked by the left-leaning Delaware Americans for Democratic Action as tied for the most progressive senator in the state’s General Assembly.

A corporate lawyer with Morris James, he was first elected in 2012, upsetting President Pro Tempore Tony DeLuca in the primary. By the time of September 2016’s primary election, he will have spent four years in the legislature.

Sen. Townsend believes he can cite both his background as a state lawmaker and his success running as a relatively unknown incumbent.

“It’s the perfect balance of experience in the process but also a commitment to grassroots,” he said.

The chairman of the Senate Banking and Business Committee, he introduced 23 bills and resolutions from January to June — the most of any legislator. That legislation included a bill to revamp the Public Defender’s Office, filed on the advice of the chief public defender; laws changing the state’s unclaimed property regulations; and several controversial measures, some of which riled up the public, members of the opposing party and even fellow Democrats.

One resolution would have placed Delaware among the states formally supporting an Article V Constitutional Convention to overturn the Citizens United court case, which allowed for unlimited political donations in some cases.

Another bill he introduced allows illegal immigrants to obtain a driving privilege card — separate from a license — to allow them to learn the rules of the road and gain insurance. It passed the Legislature and was signed into law, despite some strong opposition, by Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat.

Sen. Townsend described himself as excited to serve the entire state.

“Delaware’s congressperson traditionally has been in financial services,” he said. “That’s something I would continue to specialize in.”

He said he plans to take a break from his work as a lawyer to allow for more focus on campaigning and holding a Senate seat.

President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, praised Sen. Townsend, whom she has served alongside for three years.

“He’s a smart person, a deep thinker and he would represent us well in Washington,” she said.

While Rep. Short has not officially launched a candidacy, Sen. Blevins expects him to run and believes Delawareans will have a tough choice between the two lawmakers. Rep. Short would have to give up his seat to run, while Sen. Townsend is not up for election in 2016.

Republican Hans Reigle, the former mayor of Wyoming who already has declared his intent to run for Congress, wished Sen. Townsend luck and said he thinks voters need a Republican to give them a voice in Washington.

Sen. Townsend said he received positive feedback from constituents and believes he brings “transparency and accessibility.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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