WASHINGTON DC — Democratic 2020 contenders are using Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night to showcase some of their major clashes with the President.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is bringing a decorated transgender Navy member. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is bringing a labor leader recently furloughed from his job at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. California Sen. Kamala Harris is bringing a woman who lost her home in a wildfire.
They are among several lawmakers already running or weighing a 2020 presidential bid who are looking to send a clear message on a night Trump will command a national audience.
Gillibrand’s guest is Blake Dremann, a transgender Navy lieutenant commander who has been deployed 11 times. The invitation comes after the Supreme Court allowed Trump’s ban on transgender military service to go into effect.
Gillibrand, who battled the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, said she will introduce legislation in the Senate later this week that would protect transgender Americans’ ability to serve in the military.
“Transgender service members like Lieutenant Commander Dremann make extraordinary sacrifices every day to defend our freedom and our most sacred values, and President Trump’s decision to ban them from military service is cruel and undermines our military readiness,” she said in a statement.
Harris invited Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, whose home was destroyed in a wildfire that ravaged Southern California last year.
Pesiri-Dybvik and her husband both work for air traffic control and were furloughed during the government shutdown this year, Harris said.
“Trisha’s story is just one of many stories I heard during the shutdown of Americans whose lives were upended and who faced those difficult days with strength and resilience,” Harris said in a statement. “Washington needs to hear her story and avoid another harmful shutdown.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s guest is Sajid Shahriar, a HUD staffer and labor leader with roles in both the local American Federation of Government Employees and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
“It’s time to send a message to President Trump and Senate Republicans: federal and contract workers are the backbone of our economy and their livelihoods should never be used as pawns in Republican political games,” Warren said in a statement.
Others considering presidential runs are also using the State of the Union to advance their political priorities.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is taking aim at prescription drug costs. Her guest is Nicole Smith-Holt, the mother of Alec Smith, who died from diabetic ketoacidosis because he couldn’t afford his $1,300-a-month insulin prescription.
Highlighting his advocacy for gun control, California Rep. Eric Swalwell invited Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and gun reform activist Cameron Kasky.
One of the sharpest critics of the Trump administration’s family separations at the US-Mexico border, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, invited mother and daughter Albertina Contreras Teletor and Yakelin Garcia Contreras, who were separated at the southern border last spring.