Standing atop a table inside a pub Tuesday night in the Washington, D.C., exurb of Prince William County, Democrat Danica Roem veered briefly from the script she’d followed so closely in her march to represent Virginia’s 13th legislative district.
“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,” said Roem, who had just become the first openly transgender elected official in Virginia, and one of just a handful in the country. “This one is for you.”
For months, Roem had knocked on doors and visited subdivisions, talking to anyone who would listen about her goal of alleviating traffic on northern Virginia’s crowded roadways.
All the while, she wore her trademark rainbow scarf, an unspoken acknowledgment of her quest to become the first openly transgender person elected and seated in a U.S. state legislature.
Underscoring the historic nature of her candidacy, her opponent was a 13-term incumbent who is the most outspoken conservative in Virginia’s Republican-dominated General Assembly.
Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, has spent a career fighting against liberal causes including LGBT rights. He has called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe;” earlier this year he introduced a “bathroom bill” that died in committee.
Conservative groups denounced Roem’s victory, mocking the money she received from national LGBT groups and saying the political right had “failed to defend one of its best allies in Bob Marshall.”
“This is what happens when the radical transgender lobby pours more than $600,000 into a small state race and conservative donors largely sit the race out — Democrats cruise to victory and claim a mandate on an issue they were too afraid to outwardly campaign on,” said Terry Schilling, executive director at the Washington-based American Principles Project, which donated money to Marshall and orchestrated a telephone poll aimed at shoring up his supporters late in the race.
In an interview Tuesday night, Roem said her victory was a win for inclusion in Virginia.
“Discrimination is a disqualifier,” she said. “You can serve if you have good public policy ideas, you’re well-qualified and you have a commitment to do the work of the people you’re running to represent.”
She also said she is not going to forget her main campaign promise.
“We’re gonna finally fix Route 28,” Roem said from a party in Gainesville where she declared victory. “If anybody thinks I was joking about that, they’re about to be annoyed for the next two years as I constantly persist.”
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