Washington (AFP) – An American Democrat made history on Tuesday by becoming Virginia’s — and possibly the nation’s — first openly transgender state delegate, winning her bid for a seat in the legislature.
In a campaign that garnered national attention, musician and former journalist Danica Roem, 33, prevailed in her race against Republican Robert Marshall, who has served as a delegate for a quarter century and once referred to himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.”
With 95 percent of the vote counted, Roem was leading with 55 percent of the vote against Marshall’s 45 percent.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund described Roem as the only out transgender person in US history to win a seat in a state legislature.
“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,” Victory Fund president Aisha Moodie-Mills said in a statement.
Roem rode to victory on strong fundraising by the Victory Fund and other pro-LGBT groups and voters, which helped her grass-roots effort to raise awareness of her campaign in Virginia’s Prince William County.
She will now serve two years in the House of Delegates in Richmond, where Democrats gained several seats Tuesday and appeared close to seizing control of the legislature from Republicans.
The former journalist emphasized last month that she was not entering politics to be an LGBTQ symbol, under a president who recently banned transgender people from serving in the military.
Instead she aimed to take on municipal issues using the knowledge she amassed during nearly a decade covering local news for the Gainesville Times paper.
The septuagenarian Marshall — a staunch gay marriage opponent — refused to use the pronoun “she” when referring to Roem during the campaign, and he also refuses to debate her.
In a brief statement on Facebook, Marshall thanked his supporters.
“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 wrote.