ABOVE: Virginia state Del.-elect Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks to supporters in Lake Ridge, Va., on Nov. 7, 2017, after she ousted state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) by a nearly double-digit margin. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Danica Roem on Tuesday soundly defeated Virginia state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) in a race that garnered national attention.
With 100 percent of precincts in the 13th District reporting, Roem defeated Marshall by a 54-45 percent margin.
Roem, a former journalist, will become the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the country once she is sworn into the Virginia House of Delegates in January.
Althea Garrison in 1992 became the first trans person elected to a state legislature in the U.S. when she won a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, but she did not publicly discuss her gender identity during the campaign. Stacie Laughton in 2012 became the first openly trans person elected to a state legislature when she won a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, but she later ended her bid to sit in the chamber after convictions for credit card and identity fraud became public.
Marshall attacked Roem over her gender identity
Marshall, who has represented Virginia’s 13th District since 1992, has been one of the General Assembly’s most outspoken opponents of LGBT rights.
Marshall co-wrote Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that voters approved in 2006. A bill that he introduced in 2011 sought to ban gays and lesbians from the Virginia National Guard.
Marshall in 2016 introduced a bill that would have prevented municipalities from enacting measures against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Members of the Republican-controlled House General Laws Subcommittee earlier this year killed Marshall’s House Bill 1612, which would have prohibited trans people from using public bathrooms based on their gender identity.
Marshall throughout the campaign repeatedly attacked Roem and her gender identity and used male pronouns to identify her.
Voters in the 13th District earlier this month received anti-trans robocalls from the American Principles Project, an organization that opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples and champions other conservative causes. American Principles Project Chair Sean Fieler, who lives in New Jersey, on Sept. 11 donated $20,000 to Marshall’s campaign.
“To every person who’s ever been singled out, who’s ever been stigmatized, who’s ever been the misfit, who’s ever been the kid in the corner, who’s ever needed someone to stand up for them when they didn’t have a voice of their own because there’s no one else who was with them, this one’s for you,” said Roem as she spoke to hundreds of supporters who were attending the Prince William County Democratic Party’s election night party at Water’s End Brewery in Lake Ridge. “This one is for, most importantly, the people of Haymarket, Gainesville, Manassas, Manassas Park.”
Roem told the Washington Blade after she spoke that Marshall had yet to speak with her and formally concede.
Local, national advocacy groups hail Roem’s victory
Equality Virginia’s Political Action Committee, the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the Trans United Fund, the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, EMILY’s List and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee are among the organizations that endorsed Roem. Former Vice President Biden and other prominent Democrats backed her campaign in recent weeks.
The Blade on Tuesday afternoon saw two HRC staffers speaking with voters outside Manassas Park City Hall before they cast their ballots.
The Victory Fund and the Trans United Fund also had staffers and volunteers canvassing in the 13th District in the days leading up to the election.
“Danica’s more than qualified to be a state representative,” said Sarah Scanlon of Trans United on Tuesday as she spoke with the Blade at Roem’s campaign headquarters near downtown Manassas.
“Another barrier was broken tonight,” added state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in a text message he sent to the Blade early Wednesday. “The voters spoke and elected Danica Roem to address the issues they care about. She is waking Virginia up from history. A new chapter has begun.”
James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, in a press release described Roem’s victory as “not only a victory for transgender Virginians, but for transgender Americans as well.” State Dels. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) and Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) echoed Parrish in a statement the Democratic Party of Virginia issued.
“As a journalist, Danica Roem has covered the issues critical to Virginians and listened to a wide range of perspectives,” said Toscano and Herring. “During her campaign, Danica expanded this approach by listening to area residents’ concerns and making them integral to her own policy platform. Danica will bring a reporter’s eye to Richmond, and we eagerly anticipate her results-oriented approach to deliver for her constituents in the 13th.”
First out lesbian elected to Va. House
Roem is among the Democrats across Virginia who either unseated Republican incumbents or defeated GOP challengers for statewide office.
Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam defeated former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie in the race to succeed Gov. Terry McAuliffe by a 54-45 percent margin.
Herring won re-election by beating Republican John Adams by a 53-47 percent margin. Fairfax will succeed Northam as lieutenant governor after he defeated state Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier County) by a 52-48 percent margin.
Dawn Adams on Tuesday became the first openly lesbian woman elected to the General Assembly when she defeated state Del. Manoli Loupassi (R-Richmond) by 326 votes. Chris Hurst, a former reporter for WDBJ, a Roanoke television station, defeated state Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) by a 54-46 percent margin.
Hurst’s girlfriend, WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward, were shot to death on Aug. 26, 2015, as they were interviewing Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Gardner during a live broadcast.
“Hurst’s victory is proof that pro-LGBTQ and pro-gun reform candidates can win, even in rural Southwest Virginia,” said the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence in a press release.