History Made: Trans Candidate Danica Roem Wins Legislative Seat in Virginia

Danica Roem

Danica Roem made history today by winning a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, making her the first openly transgender person to be elected to the legislature, and one of the first out trans people to be elected to any legislature in the U.S.

Roem, a Democrat, bested incumbent Republican Bob Marshall, arguably the most anti-LGBT member of the legislature. She is a former journalist from Manassas, in northern Virginia, and she won in District 13, where the infamously anti-LGBT Marshall has held the seat for 13 terms.

Roem's legislative priorities include improving transportation, both highways and mass transit, to facilitate economic development in the district, which is part of the D.C. metropolitan area. She said Marshall had neglected the district's needs to instead focus on an anti-LGBT agenda. He led efforts to ban same-sex marriage in Virginia and sponsored a bill to restrict trans people's use of public restrooms; it even would have required school personnel to out trans students to their parents. It did not pass. 

“Marshall has had 25 years to fix Route 28 [a major area thoroughfare] and his legislative priorities have been more concerned about where I go to the bathroom,” Roem told The Advocate earlier this year..

Marshall used anti-trans rhetoric on the campaign trail, even refusing to recognize Roem as a woman. At one point he asked a reporter, "Did Danica's DNA change?"

Speaking to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell tonight, though, Roem avoided criticizing Marshall, who, she noted, will be a constituent of hers once she takes office in January. "I campaigned on a platform of building up our infrastructure and not tearing down each other," she said. She added, "A message of inclusion and equality resonated here."

She also emphasized the importance of a free and independent press, given her experience as a reporter in northern Virginia, which she characterized as important preparation for public office.. "Facts matter, and alternative facts are B.S.," she said.

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of Victory Fund, which endorsed Roem, released the following statement when her victory was announced:

 “Tonight voters chose a smart, solutions-oriented trans leader over a divisive anti-LGBTQ demagogue – sending a powerful message to anti-trans legislators all across the nation. Danica defeated ‘Bigot Bob’ Marshall not because she is transgender, but because she presented a positive vision for her constituents that will improve their lives. We are determined to replicate this race nationwide – using constituent-focused LGBTQ candidates to takedown elected officials who use their positions to target our community. Tonight was the opening salvo.

 “Danica’s victory is a historic milestone in our continued march toward equality – becoming the first out trans person to ever win and serve in a state legislature. Her campaign was hard-fought – she shared her personal story with her constituents and braved constant, dehumanizing anti-trans attacks from her opponent – but that is the burden trailblazers often face. Danica has inspired trans leaders across the country, and it is inevitable more will follow in her footsteps and become powerful voices for our community.

 “2017 will be remembered as the year of the trans candidate – and Danica’s heroic run for office the centerpiece of that national movement. Victory Fund was among Danica’s first endorsements because of her ambitious but realistic campaign plan and her dedication to knocking on doors and talking about the issues that matter. We believed in her – bundling more than $200,000 on her behalf, sending dozens of staff and volunteers to get out the vote for her in the primary and general election, and helping her secure the national media platform necessary to raise additional contributions. Trans elected leaders like Danica are the antidote to the anti-trans efforts we see across the nation, so Victory Fund will continue working tirelessly to elect more of them.”

And this from the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia, which worked together to support Roem's candidancy:

“Danica Roem’s historic victory is a clear warning to anti-equality lawmakers across the country that the days of attacking LGBTQ people to scare up votes are over,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “HRC was proud to mobilize voters to support Danica Roem’s trailblazing candidacy, and we look forward to working with her to help continue moving equality forward in Virginia.”

“Danica’s victory tonight is not only a victory for transgender Virginians, but for transgender Americans as well,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parish. “Our great Commonwealth has had many significant electoral firsts, and it’s no surprise the diverse and welcoming citizens of Prince William County have chosen to elect the first transgender candidate to any state’s legislative body. Roem ran a smart, issues-driven campaign focused on improving the lives of her neighbors; a campaign that ran counter to her opponent’s divisive and transphobic rhetoric. I, along with Equality Virginia’s staff and board, send our heartfelt congratulations to Danica, and we look forward to working with her at the General Assembly to pass protections for gay and transgender Virginians.”

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