A former Montgomery County council aide announced Thursday that she will run for the state Senate against incumbent Richard S. Madaleno Jr., setting up a contest between a transgender woman and the chamber’s only openly gay member.

Dana Beyer, who is executive director of Gender Rights Maryland and previously worked for former Council member Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large), announced her intentions on a campaign Web site and in an item that appeared on the Huffington Post.

Beyer cast herself as a progressive focused on social justice issues and lifting people into the middle class. In an interview, she honored Madaleno for his groundbreaking role as one of the first openly gay lawmakers in the state but also criticized him for not being more bold on economic issues.

“We need the Montgomery County delegation to be strongly progressive and the incumbent senator, particularly on economic issues, is not,” Beyer said. “I believe I can better serve the residents of the county on the economy.”

Beyer, a retired eye surgeon, ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 2006 and 2010.

Madaleno (D-Montgomery) shrugged off the challenge.

“I’m proud of my rather lengthy list of accomplishments,” he said Thursday. Madaleno, who joined the state Senate in 2007, said that as a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee and chairman of its education, business and administration subcommittee, he has played an important role in shaping legislative initiatives as varied as the Dream Act, marriage equality and generous funding for public education.

“I think the last four years in particular have been the most progressive in Maryland history,” Madaleno said. He also boasted of having received the support of all the other senators in the county’s delegation.

“Senator Madaleno is Montgomery County’s budgetary wizard who translates the progressive priorities of our delegation every day into the dollars and cents of the state budget,” Sen. Jamie B. Raskin, the county delegation’s chair, said in a written statement.

Asked about the significance of the matchup between a transgender and openly gay candidate, Madaleno said, “I think it says that people who, in years past, would never have thought of running for office, now find the doors wide open. There’s tremendously more acceptance. It’s been a remarkable transformation in 12 years.”

Madaleno said there are now eight openly gay members in the Maryland General Assembly, a number that he said he believes is more than any other in the country.

Beyer also acknowledged the unusual nature of their matchup.

“It’s strange and comical at the same time that I happen to be living in a district with a gay senator,” Beyer said. “The fact that both of us are LBGT probably neutralizes the issue completely. I think it says a lot about how far America has come.”

Beyer said on her Web site that as a the former co-owner of a medical practice she knows how to create jobs.

“I am determined to level the playing field for our families, starting with raising the minimum wage – a critical step in rebuilding our middle class and giving working people a chance to support themselves,” she said. “I’ll help grow our economy by expanding loans and tax credits for small businesses, repairing and modernizing our infrastructure and working to eliminate corporate tax loopholes.”