Clayton woman Kathleen "Katie" Cooke filed for State Senate District 15 earlier this month and if elected, she has told her supporters she'll be willing to support groups, such as firefighters, police and teachers in Legislative Hall.

Cooke, a Democrat, is challenging Sen. David Lawson, R-Marydel, for the seat he won two years ago in the 15th Senatorial District. Cooke said that since Lawson took office, he has consistently voted against the state's annual operating budget and cast "not voting" votes on the state's annual grant-in-aid budget, which provides the bulk of the state's support for the fire service and provides key aid to senior citizen centers and programs, such as meals on wheels and Boys and Girls Clubs.

Cooke said she would vote to ensure the state's public safety forces were fully supported.

"I want to work to make sure first responders get the help they need to help us when we need them," Cooke told the crowd of more than 70 who turned out to help kick off her campaign.

Cooke was introduced by Pam Denney-Griffiths, a social worker with the Smyrna School District, who praised Cooke for being willing to enter the Senate contest.

"Katie is a rare find," she said. "She is committing herself to improving the community and protecting the rights of her fellow citizens."

Cooke, whose family owns Dover's Kirby and Holloway Family Restaurant, said she'll also work to be a voice for small business in Dover.

"I understand the challenges entrepreneurs face on a daily basis because I've lived them right here with my family," she said. "I want to help foster and environment that supports our local businesses and helps them grow."

Cooke, a teacher in the Smyrna School District, said she was drawn to run partly because of Lawson's votes against state support for public schools.

"As an educator – I know what we need," she said. "As a legislator, I will make education a priority and schools will have a voice in the General Assembly."