Delaware Senate Majority Leader Henry not seeking another term

DOVER — Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry, a Wilmington Democrat, will not run for re-election.

Sen. Henry, 73, released a statement explaining her decision Thursday a few hours after Wilmington City Councilman Samuel Guy announced he is not seeking another term and he is running to replace her.

“This was a decision I reached with enormous difficulty,” Sen. Henry said in part. “I’ve spent my life working on behalf of other people, and I’ve treasured that work. But, since joining the Senate I’ve become a grandmother, and my time with my family becomes more precious with each passing year. And I’ve seen the growth of a generation of leaders who give me hope for a brighter future. It’s time to allow them to lead.”

First elected to represent the 2nd District in 1994, she is the only black woman to ever serve in the Delaware Senate. She succeeded Herman Holloway, who died in office.

Although Sen. Henry has gained a reputation as one of the General Assembly’s most left-leaning lawmakers, she was elected as a Republican. After being approached by the GOP, she switched her registration to Republican and won the seat.

She then changed her party affiliation again in 1996 and has remained a Democrat since.

Sen. Margaret Rose Henry

Sen. Henry is the second senator to announce retirement this month, joining 71-year-old Brian Bushweller, a Dover Democrat. The Democratic Party currently holds an 11-10 advantage in the chamber, and while Sen. Henry’s announcement does give the GOP a better chance to claim the 2nd District seat, the odds are still heavily tilted against the party: 76 percent of the registered voters in the area are Democrats, making it the deepest blue district in the Senate.

Among the successful bills Sen. Henry has sponsored during her time in office are measures to create a medical marijuana program, impose harsher firearm restrictions on individuals accused of domestic violence and ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

“I had never been a politician before — my career had been spent in nonprofits that focused on the needs of children, women, seniors and working families. I had been shaped by my childhood in Rayne, Louisiana, a town where the median family income is less than half of Delaware’s,” she said. “I was shaped by my experience as a black woman in the workforce and as a divorced mother raising two children. I was shaped by what I saw average people go through when society left them behind.

“I came to public service because I had seen firsthand what it meant to be in poverty. I knew what it was to live on the margins of society. I wanted to be a fighter for people who couldn’t make their voices heard. It’s never been easy, but I’ve been steadfast in the fight for women’s rights, affordable housing, coverage for mental health and prescription drugs, child support, compassionate drug policy and tax policy that supports the working class.

“I’ve fought against domestic violence, child abuse and criminal justice policy that has decimated entire communities. I continue to fight for a school system that provides truly equal opportunity to all children, including thousands in Wilmington who have been failed by society time and again.”

Sen. Henry has been Senate majority leader since 2016 and was previously majority whip for four years. She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Mr. Guy, in his second term on City Council, has garnered controversy: He was censured by councilmembers earlier this year and had his law license suspended by the Delaware Supreme Court for 18 months more than a decade ago.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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