One of Virginia’s most conservative lawmakers was ousted in the polls Tuesday, paving way for Democrat Danica Roem to become the first openly transgender state lawmaker in the nation’s history.
In the race for Virginia's 13th District, Roem, who was the Virginia House of Delegates candidate, defeated Republican incumbent Bob Marshall.
According to USA Today, Roem's campaign focused on jobs, schools and other issues in suburban Prince William County rather than gender identity. She also argued that Marshall had spent too much of his energy during his term tackling social issues.
Marshall, a staunch conservative who had served in the Virginia's House of Delegates since 1992, referred to himself as the state’s “chief homophobe.” Marshall also introduced a “bathroom bill” earlier this year that would have required transgender people to use a public restroom that corresponded with the sex on their birth certificate. However, the bill, which was tabled in the state’s General Assembly, was killed by a Republican-led committee.
Marshall refused to publicly debate Roem and even attacked Roem’s identity as a transgender woman by producing ads during his campaign that referred to her by her birth gender.
Roem, a former journalist, raised $500,000 in donations, much of it coming from LGBT advocates and other supporters across the country, outraising Marshall 3-1, the Washington Post reported. She conducted campaigns and went from door to door in the district with 52,471 registered voters.
Maintaining a steady social media presence, Roem did a number of public appearances and interviews, as well.
In her bio on the campaign website, Roem stated that she learned to listen to different perspectives and digest complicated policy as a reporter for the Gainesville Times and Prince William Times. She also sang in a metal band in her spare time, ABC News said.
She also talked about her transition and said: “I started transitioning while working at the newspaper in 2012, began hormone replacement therapy Dec. 3, 2013, changed my name, gender and byline in 2015 and no one cared. It was great. I could just keep doing my job.”
In an interview with Mother Jones, Roem said voters in the increasingly suburban Northern Virginia district did not care about her gender but were more concerned about whether she would fix the road.
“Transgender people have really good public policy ideas that span the gamut of transportation policy to health care policy to education policy, and yes, to civil rights as well,” Roem said. “We shouldn’t just be pigeonholed into the idea that we’re just going to be fighting about bathrooms.”
She added that there were many stories that were run about her being a transgender rather than her qualifications for office.
As the margin of her victory became clear Tuesday night, the Post quoted Roem as saying: “This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics, disregarding phobias . . . where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.”
Marshall also thanked his supporters in a statement on Facebook after conceding his defeat.
"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," he said. "I'm committed to continue the fight for you, but in a different role going forward.