Q&A with State Senator Marie Pinkney

Marie Pinkney

Delaware State Senator

Marie PinkneyTell us about your background. What are the experiences, including education, that make up the person you currently are?

I am a master’s level social worker. I was educated in two different HBCUs. I am a queer, Black woman and a productive of kinship adoption. I am a community advocate and dedicated to elevating the voices of forgotten and disenfranchised communities. I am someone who spent years trying to find my own voice in order to stand up for myself but have never needed a second thought to do the same thing for another person. I’ve lived in my home state my entire life except for college. I believe that Delaware is an amazing place and only desire to continue the growth that has made it such. I am the type of person who believes that in the same breathe that you congratulate you must also identify where work must still be done.

What was your trigger moment and why this specific office?

My trigger moment was when our nation found out that our country was allowing immigrant children to be kept in cages. In that moment I realized that if we do not drastically shift the balance of who is in office we would lose a great deal of our morality in this country. I decided on this office because I believe the ability to make state policy that improves the lives of our one state will eventually lead to a shift in policymaking on the federal level. Typically when the federal government sees numerous states taking a stand in one direction we see the federal government take steps to follow national trends.

What made you feel qualified to run for office?

Honestly, I do not know that I felt qualified at the time that I decided to run. However, I knew that I had a heart for helping others and making their lives better. I also knew that my background in social work would provide a unique perspective that can inform how policy impacts people’s lives on a day-to-day basis.

Do you work full-time or part-time?


Most people don’t know what their elected official does on a daily basis. What’s a typical day looking like for you?

A typical day for me includes one or more committee hearings. During these hearings, we are listening to the bill sponsors and asking questions about their bills or their process. My day also includes meeting with stakeholders to discuss and put together bills that I am working on. It is followed by a meeting in legislative hall to debate and vote on these bills. Finally, I spend time returning phone calls to constituents or walking through my district to see what is going on. There are also many civic meetings or community/advocacy group events that I attend all throughout the week.

Additionally, they might not know what their elected official is responsible for. What is your role in comparison to other elected offices on your level?

My role as a state legislator is to make the laws that govern the state of Delaware. It is to advocate for the needs of the people I represent and to put my personal biases aside and do what is best for the people I represent.

What do you think people would be surprised to know someone in your position does?

I think people would be surprised to know that we don’t know it. We are surrounded by tons of people who are experts in the fields that we need to work within. Essentially, our role is to pull together those like minds and make a final decision. There is a common misconception that legislative halls are filled with people who know everything. This is false. I believe that the sooner we dispel this myth the sooner more women will believe themselves worthy to run for office.

What are 3-5 skills needed to be successful in the elected office you served in/are currently serving in?

Empathy and compassion. It is vital that we as elected officials care deeply about the experiences of the people that we represent. Additionally, the ability to lead is important. Often time in these positions it is necessary for us to take the lead and sometimes to stand alone when we know it’s the right thing to do. It’s not easy and it’s sometimes scary but if it’s the right thing to do – then do it scared. Finally, tough skin is important. I never thought I’d be the one to say this. However, after experiencing my first term I realize that it is. There are people out there who do not like to lose. However, when you have a strong argument and you’re doing the right thing they’ll find something to attack you about. Sometimes that something is your character. This becomes daunting but it’s how you know you’re doing the right thing.

What’s the best part about serving in elected office?

The best part of being in elected office is the opportunity to elevate the voices and concerns of the people you represent. You get the amazing opportunity to hear people’s stories. You then have the honor of bringing those stories and experiences into the conversation when it’s time to make policy. There’s no better feeling than that.

What has been the accomplishment you’re most proud of while in office?

The accomplishment that I have been most proud of is a simple healthcare bill. While I was running for office a friend told me about being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed in her 20s and did not have great health insurance coverage. She desperately needed an insulin pump to help manage her diabetes. However, she would have had to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket. By the time she shared this with me, she was able to obtain one. However, this story stuck with me because there are likely many others out there in the same situation. One of the first bills I started working on in my first term was to require insurance companies to cover the total cost of insulin pumps. That bill unanimously passed the senate. It was a great feeling.

In terms of finances, how much money did you have to raise for your campaign?

I raised around $35k for the primary election. In Delaware, state elections are typically decided by the primary. However, by the end of the general, there was a total of about $65K.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s thinking about running for the position you serve/have served in their community?

DO IT! If you care about making people’s lives better then go for it. Do not waste time questioning yourself. The people who are already holding those positions and not making a difference don’t spend their time doing that. You shouldn’t either. Go all in. The worst that will happen is that you will lose. That loss will better inform your next attempt.