In Virginia, Danica Roem made history on Tuesday night as the first openly transgender politician to win re-election in a state legislature.
Roem handily beat Republican Kelly McGinn in the race to represent Virginia’s 13th District, which includes Manassas, Manassas Park, Gainesville, and Haymarket. McGinn had previously expressed strong opposition to adoption access for same-sex couples, saying: “Although redefining family, marriage, and parenthood has become a national obsession, one man and one woman joined in marriage remain the most successful paradigmatic family in which to place a child.”
Roem faced a transphobic campaign funded by the Family Foundation Action, which ran ads claiming she “sponsored a bill to force all insurance companies to pay for harmful and unnecessary ‘gender transition’ surgeries.”
On Twitter, Roem responded to the ads by calling on voters to “#FlipTheScript on their bigotry.” They listened, reelecting her 56.2 percent to 43.7 percent.
Last night’s victory builds on Roem’s already decisive 2017 win over anti-LGBTQ+ Republican Bob Marshall, who referred to himself as Virginia's “chief homophobe.” During the 2017 campaign, Marshall — the author of an unsuccessful anti-trans bathroom bill — refused to use Roem’s proper pronouns or to even debate her. She won that election by a margin of 54 to 46.
Roem actually increased her support in several towns. In 2017, she lost Sudley by 22 votes, but last night she won by 68. In 2017, she lost Signal Hill by nine votes but won by six this time around.
In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign credited Roem with shattering several glass ceilings for trans people in office.
“Danica Roem has once again made history, becoming the longest-serving and first openly transgender elected official to be re-elected in our nation’s history,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Throughout her tenure in the House of Delegates, Roem has remained focused on the needs of her constituents, despite hateful and divisive attacks from anti-LGBTQ groups and her opponents.”
Annise Parker, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, also offered praise for Roem’s decisive win.
“In 2017, Danica wrote the playbook on how transgender candidates can defeat anti-[LGBTQ+] opponents through authenticity and attention to everyday issues — and her reelection victory sets it in stone,” Parker said in a statement.
The Victory Fund has been closely monitoring a Republican effort to use trans equality as a wedge issue in the 2019 election, in a likely test of campaigns to drive conservative turnout in 2020. Roem’s victory could be seen as voters expressing disinterest in transphobic talking points.
At an Election Night party at City Tavern in Manassas, Roem thanked her supporters for rejecting anti-LGBTQ+ hate.
“This is so perfect to spend tonight with you all,” she told the gathered crowd. “The way we won this race was by taking care of our constituents for the last two years. It was by doing what the people asked us to do. Keeping promises like expanding Medicaid… and while we were doing it we were raising teacher pay by five percent.”
“To the people of the 13th District: Thank you so much for the confidence you’ve shown in my team and me by such an overwhelming margin,” she added in a tweet. “I’m grateful to represent you because of who you are — never despite it.”
With last night’s election, Democrats now control both chambers of the Virginia legislature. That puts the party in charge of redistricting after the Census is complete.