Danica Roem wants to beat Bob Marshall, be first transgender woman in Virginia General Assembly
During a recent, notoriously crazy Bob Marshall press conference, a number of faces stood out – among them was one of his possible challengers in this year’s House race – Danica Roem.
Roem, a life long resident of Prince William County where Marshall has reigned as 13th District Delegate since 1992, spent her formative years in Catholic school. But strict faith couldn’t keep her authentic self at bay. Before she turned 30, she’d started hormone treatments and was living as a woman.
“I knew I wasn’t typical compared to the other cisgendered boys, and by 7th grade I knew,” said Roem in an interview with GayRVA. “There was no doubt in my mind”
But all that started a long time ago, long before Obama and DOMA the repeal of DOMA and the legalization of same-sex marriage and a number of other pro-LGBTQ efforts that helped build her confidence to where it is today.
“I really didn’t have a lot of people I could look to,” she said, noting trans people on TV were usually hookers or twists in overly dramatic movies. “You were supposed to be ashamed, because society tells you one thing.”
It took some time, even while in a small college just over the Pennsylvania boarder in New York state, before she was fully comfortable with herself. Luckily she had support, an openly lesbian boss at a newspaper she worked at helped expand her understanding of who and what a sexual minority could be.
All the while, the aspiring journalist who had visions of writing about metal music around the world started shifting goals.
Instead of riffs and guitar solos she started watching politics and committee votes. She saw the passage of DOMA and the language used to put down LGBTQs under the George W. Bush Administration and she got mad – as mad as she could while maintaining her professional third-party objectivity.
“All my years of reading the newspaper every single day… it informed how I perceived politics and how I understand government,” she said. “And why I’m interested now in covering issues that impact people in the 13th district, but also our larger community.”
Her love of the 13th district, which includes Manassas Park, parts of Prince William County and other DC suburbs, has kept her there, despite the controversial legislative action of Del. Bob Marshall.
“It’s where I grew up,” she said. “You learn to love the value of the people there, even if you disagree with them… when you’re a journalist, it gives you a different perspective and you value the time you have with other people…”
The journalism gig also gave her insight into the area’s biggest issue – transportation and the constant backups along Route 28 leading to I-66, the main east/west artery for employees of the district to get to work from their homes in Virginia.
She rattled off details about traffic issues plaguing what used to be my old stomping grounds. From proposed toll roads, something she opposes but sees as an inevitable future, to removing traffic lights at particularly bad intersections.
She knows her stuff.
“That’s the key responsibility a delegate has,” she said, pointing to former Senator Colgan who she said also prioritized infrastructure projects and brought community colleges to the area. Meanwhile, her opponent, Delegate Marshall, who inherited much of the district after 2011 redistricting, has done little to help the citizens and lots to target them in his challenger’s eyes.
“I make a very simple point here,” she said. “Del. Marshall is not focusing on the top priorities of the district – transportation, economic development and education – and is instead pursuing a discriminatory legislative agenda that will go no where… it is a complete waste of our time and tax dollars on his salary for him to pursue this legislative agenda that is destined to die.”
This session, that agenda includes limiting bathroom access for transgender people and working to roll back protections for LGBTQ teachers and students – both measures were killed, but Gov. Terry McAuliffe had promised to veto them anyway.
Marshall’s history of election success is fairly remarkable considering his extreme conservative stances on social issues, but the changing demographics of the area have weakened his hold. His last race in 2015 against Democrat Donald Shaw put the incumbent’s lead at about 1500 votes. But it was an off year election where turnout is expectedly low. Back in 2013, Democrats put a Sunni Muslim on the ticket, Atif Qarni, and he lost by less than 500 votes.
“We view it as a winnable seat,” said Del Rip Sullivan, Campaign Chair for House Democratic Caucus which seeks out and recruits candidates to run. “Hillary Clinton won the [13th] district, which to us, shows there are more than enough voters willing to come out and vote for a good democratic candidate and we’re hoping to capitalize on that.”
Sullivan was the one who called Roem and asked her to run last August. He also helped recruit one of the two other candidates vying to challenge Marshall, Steven Jansen and Manismran Kahlon.
He was quick to say that he was unable to endorse any one candidate over the other until the primaries were finished in June, but the Campaign Chair said the party was casting a “wide net” for any candidates who were able and interested. Sullivan stressed the level of diversity in his caucus and the addition of Roem, or the other possible candidates, would help to expand that diversity.
“My sense of Danica is she brings lots and lots of things to the table,” Sullivan said. “She is not running as a or because of her transgender status, its obviously a part of her and what she’ll bring to the table. But my sense from talking to her is she wants to run on the issues and she wants to win this seat because of a variety of issues, whether its social issues or transportation.”
Roem appears to be working hard to set that distinction as well – she might identify as a transgender woman, but she identifies as a citizen of the 13th district as well.
“Yes, I’m transgender, and that gets me attention,” she said. “But if you look a the issues I’m running on, its infrastructure.”
Her commitment to LGBTQ issues brought her to the GA long before her legislative bid. Last year she said she attended several bill hearings to speak out agianst anti-LGBTQ legislation, and she sees herself as another option for LGBTQ citizens to go to if and when they have issues, similar to how folks might approach openly-gay Alexandria Senator Adam Ebbin.
“[Ebbin] delivered results for his district, but at the same time, if the LGBT community needs something done, they know they can go to Adam Ebbin,” she said. “I’m not shying away from my community.”
And Roem wants to follow in folks like Sen. Ebbin’s footsteps, being the first openly transgender elected official in the Commonwealth.
“Of course I want to focus on the core policy issues,” she said. “But I also realize I’m in a unique position to inspire a lot of people’s voices that have not been heard… from students to transgender people across the country who feel like ‘in her, I have someone who understands what its like.”
Roem will face off against other Democratic opponents in the party’s Primary this June. You can read more about her on her official website here.
National LGBTQ campaign group backs transgender candidate in race agianst author of Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban
Danica Roem has been hard at work in an effort to take the lead in Virginia’ 13th House district race, and she just got the backing of the nation’s largest LGBTQ campaign group, the Victory Fund. Roem, a transgender woman, former journalist, and life-long Prince William County resident, is currently in a 4-way fight to [...]April 24, 2017
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