Heard on the Hill

Take Five: Lisa Blunt Rochester

Delaware Democrat talks about how losing her husband pushed her into politics

Freshman Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester says her campaign trail chant was: "When Lisa goes to Washington, we all go to Washington!" (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Freshman Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, 55, a Delaware Democrat, talks about traveling with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., interning for Sen. Thomas R. Carper and being the Dean of Delaware.

Q: What has surprised you so far in your time in Congress?

A: I think I felt that I would feel very intimidated going on the floor of the House or meeting other members. Probably one of the biggest shocks for me, I feel like I am really bringing Delaware with me. On the campaign trail, we had this saying, “When Lisa goes to Washington, we all go to Washington!” And we would chant that. I really, literally feel when I step on the floor of the House that I’m bringing so many different types of people with me from Delaware.

[Take Five: Dwight Evans]

Q: What made you want to get into politics originally?

A:  At the age of about 42, I ended up meeting the love of my life, Charles Rochester. I moved to China for love because he was working in China. I got to do something I always wanted to do — write a book. We moved back to the States in 2012 and in 2014, Charles was on a business trip and played basketball before his meetings and ruptured his Achilles tendon and then blood clots traveled into his lungs and [he] passed away. He was only 53. I was really sad and I thought about how so many people were going through a really tough time.

I had a hard time listening to the rhetoric. I just felt like, we need people to bring us together, not make us pull apart. I had a situation … almost a year after the day Charles died. There was a dad and three kids in front of me and the guy had to put back a bunch of grapes that were $9 because I guess he didn’t have the money. It was a series of little things like that that made me say: I’m running for office, I have nothing to lose.

[Take Five: Lou Correa]

Q: You rode back on a train with former Vice President Biden after inauguration. What was that like?

A: That was incredible. First of all, he’s a delegation icon. He’s just one of our own. Everybody calls him Joe. That train ride back was really symbolic because he made that ride for so many years and on that same train was myself, it was the newly [sworn-in] governor, who was our former congressman, and it was our two senators. To be there and listen to the vice president tell stories about his time here … It was just an honor.

Blunt Rochester texts a lot with her former boss, Delaware Sen. <a class="memberLink" title="Click to view member info in a new window" href="http://data.rollcall.com/members/634?rel=memberLink" target="_blank">Thomas R. Carper</a>, who is also a friend and mentor. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Blunt Rochester texts a lot with her former boss, Delaware Sen. Thomas R. Carper, who is also a friend and mentor. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Q: You previously worked for Sen. Thomas R. Carper. Do you see him every now and then?

A: ‘Every now and then’ is an understatement. It’s so funny because we’re a small delegation as it is but he’s also a friend and mentor, so we text a lot. We call Tom Carper “TC.” He’s just been a good friend for a long time and he’s very funny. He will say, which is true, that he was trying to encourage me to run for mayor [of Wilmington] for years. He was there in the beginning and he’s just good people.

[Editor’s note: Blunt Rochester started off as an intern and a caseworker for then-Rep. Carper and worked for him when he served as Delaware governor.]

[Take Five: Charlie Crist]

Q: What is unique about being an at-large member?

A: It’s funny because [my colleagues] actually call me the Dean of Delaware. They tease me, like, “Oh, life is not hard for you because you can get a unanimous vote in your delegation.” What I think is probably significant about being the lone member is you really do represent all people, every perspective. A major example was even going to the inauguration. There were folks texting me and asking on Facebook, “Are you going?” Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, there are some that aren’t going. I really had to weigh what is it that is my intention right now. It was representation, participation, but not necessarily celebration.

[Take Five: Adriano Espaillat]

Quick Hits

Last book you read: “Jacksonland” by Steve Inskeep

Last movies you saw: “Fences” and “Moonlight”

Favorite song of all time: “Imagine” by John Lennon

Role model: My grandmothers, Helen and Lillian

Closest to in Congress: The whole freshman class

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