LGBTQ people and other marginalized minorities saw substantial gains in representation due to yesterday's election results.
Marilyn Drew Necci | November 8, 2017
The big news around the Commonwealth this morning is the big win for Democrats in yesterday’s election. However, while Ralph Northam’s surprisingly strong victory over Ed Gillespie in the gubernatorial race is certainly the headline, Virginia’s LGBTQ community have their own special reasons to be overjoyed, the biggest being Danica Roem’s victory over Bob Marshall to take the 13th District’s seat in the House Of Delegates.
We’ve kept you well informed on this particular election, and not just because Roem is the first transgender candidate for statewide office in Virginia or, indeed, any state in the union. On that measure alone, her win would be a huge moral victory for Virginia’s LGBTQ citizens. However, she didn’t just replace some random faceless Republican; she replaced the man who has been the face of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the Virginia General Assembly for over a decade now. From attempting to impeach Attorney General Mark Herring over Herring’s refusal to defend Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage to introducing an HB2-style anti-trans “bathroom bill” in last year’s General Assembly, 13-term Delegate Bob Marshall has been the chief face of legislative opposition to LGBTQ rights.
Throughout his campaign against Roem, Marshall persistently misgendered her, sent mud-slinging mailers that attacked her gender identity, and received support from groups that paid for anti-trans robocalls in her district. Roem refused to sink to this level during the campaign, and reportedly replied to a question about Marshall after her victory by saying, “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.” Her ability to take the high road and focus on issues rather than personal attacks speaks well for her potential as a legislator.
Roem was not the only transgender candidate to win a big victory during elections last night; three other transgender candidates succeeded in capturing political offices elsewhere around the country. In Minneapolis, Andrea Jenkins became the first trans person elected to City Council in a major US city, while Palm Springs saw Lisa Middleton become the first trans person elected to a non-judicial office in California. Last but not least, Tyler Titus became the first trans person elected to a Pennsylvania government office with his election to the School Board in Erie, PA.
Closer to home, Richmond’s 68th District saw a battle between 5-term Republican incumbent Manoli Loupassi and Democratic challenger Dawn Adams, a nurse practitioner who also happens to be a lesbian–though her orientation was never a major component in her campaign against Loupassi. Indeed, Loupassi has a relatively positive record on LGBTQ issues, as he took pains to point out in a recent conversation with GayRVA. Regardless, Loupassi could not withstand the progressive wave that appears to have come in on the heels of Northam’s victory, and Adams defeated him by only 300 votes. She will become the first open lesbian to serve in the General Assembly.
There were quite a few other firsts in the elections — Elizabeth Guzman, who won the 31st District Delegate seat, and Hala Ayala, who won in the 51st, are the first two Latina women to serve in Virginia’s General Assembly. Like Danica Roem, both will represent Prince William County. Meanwhile, Kathy Tran won the 42nd District seat to become the first Asian-American delegate. Even the Democratic Socialists of America got involved, with DSA member Lee J. Carter, who ran as a Democrat, winning the 50th District (even after the Democratic party stopped supporting him).
Not all of Virginia’s record number of openly LGBTQ candidates for office fared as well in this election. Kelly DeLucia lost to Republican Brenda Pogge in the 96th District, Rebecca Colaw lost to Republican Emily Brewer in the 64th, and Samuel Ben Hixon lost to Republican Nick J. Freitas in the 30th. However, incumbent Delegates Mark Sickles and Mark Levine of the 43rd and 45th Districts, respectively, easily retained their seats in unopposed races.
Massive turnout, likely driven by increased awareness of political issues in Donald Trump’s America, was a big component of the Democratic victory. An increase in polarization across different areas of the state saw Northam winning Northern Virginia, the Richmond metropolitan area, and Hampton Roads by greater margins than McAuliffe won over Cuccinelli in those regions in 2013. Meanwhile, Northam lost to Gillespie in rural Shenandoah and Southwest Virginia by greater margins than McAuliffe lost to Cuccinelli in those regions. With Northam taking the more populous regions, though, the overall result was a decisive 9-point victory for Northam.
In the General Assembly, where Republicans previously held a 32-seat advantage, the wave of Democratic victories is poised to flip control of the Assembly to Democrats, with 13 Republicans defeated and three open seats captured by Democrats. One 12-vote Republican victory and one 68-vote Democratic victory are still subject to recount, but as of right now, the count stands at 50-50.
The ultimate control of Virginia’s General Assembly will probably be decided by recounts, but right now no one can deny the significance of the state’s big progressive shift. LGBTQ Virginians now have reason to look forward to the next General Assembly session, and the incoming governor’s administration, with excitement rather than dread.
Top Photo courtesy Danica Roem