A transgender woman unseated one of Virginia’s longest serving and most socially conservative lawmakers Tuesday and is set to make history as the first openly transgender person elected and seated in a U.S. state legislature.
Democrat Danica Roem, an experienced newspaper reporter, beat Republican Bob Marshall in Tuesday’s election. The race was one of the year’s most high profile, drawing national and international attention and big money to the northern Virginia House of Delegates district outside the nation’s capital.
“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,” Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president & CEO of Victory Fund, said in a statement.
Roem will be the first transgender member of the house of delegates and will become the first out transgender person to win and serve in a state legislature, according to the Victory Fund.
Roem openly discussed her gender identity during her campaign, but it was far from her focus. Instead, she focused on jobs, schools and, with particular fervor, northern Virginia’s traffic congestion.
She also argued that Marshall, who has served in the house since 1992, has spent too much time on social policy.
A lightning rod for controversy, Marshall often drew the ire of even his own party.
Earlier this year, Marshall sponsored a measure that would have restricted the bathrooms transgender people can use. He is also the author of a now-void constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and sponsored a bill banning gay people from openly serving in the Virginia National Guard.
On the campaign trail, Marshall and other Republicans repeatedly misidentified Roem’s gender.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Marshall said: “For 26 years I’ve been proud to fight for you, and fight for our future. Though we all wish tonight would have turned out differently, I am deeply grateful for your support and effort over the years.”
Roem, who started pursuing therapy to begin her gender transition when she was 28, said in an interview earlier this year with The Associated Press that politics should be inclusive of all.
“No matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship or who you love, if you have good public policy ideas, if you’re qualified for office, you have every right to bring your ideas to the table,” she said.
Roem also said she learned to listen to different perspectives and digest complicated policy as a reporter for the Gainesville Times and Prince William Times, skills she would bring to bear as a delegate. In her spare time, she sings in a metal band.