Virginia has a new representative working on behalf of the state’s 13th district in its House of Delegates — and she rocks. The Washington Post reports that Danica Roem, a 33-year-old Democratic candidate whose résumé includes journalism experience as well as the lead-singer position in the metal band Cab Ride Home, has unseated 25-year incumbent Robert G. Marshall after a deeply personal campaign that was treated as a referendum on everything from local traffic to national gender norms.
Marshall, a fervently right-wing politician who made national headlines in 2016 when he introduced the so-called “bathroom bill” designed to restrict restroom access to transgender individuals, found himself in the fight of his career against Roem, who came out as transgender in 2013. According to the Post, he refused to debate Roem and insisted on referring to her using male pronouns — tactics in keeping with his self-proclaimed status as the state’s “chief homophobe,” but ultimately less than useful during the campaign.
“Discrimination is a disqualifier,” Roem told reporters after the election results came in during the evening of Nov. 7. “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.”
Roem becomes the state’s first transgender politician — and the first openly transgender official to serve in the nation. And while her victory took what some pundits viewed as a gutsy path to victory in a state whose politics were once defined by far more conservative views, she insisted she never wavered in her decision, trusting voters to take faith in her message and see past her non-traditional day job and lifestyle.
“Just because I sing in a heavy metal band while spinning my head in circles and getting paid to do it, why can’t I run for government?” Roem asked Noisey in the midst of her campaign. “Why would I have to change who I am in order to run for government? I’ve already had to go through transformative change.”
While cultural issues may have defined national coverage of the race, for numerous voters, casting a vote meant sending a far more mundane message, and Roem’s victory is just the prelude to years of grinding through the state bureaucracy. As one district resident told the Post, he was a single-issue voter in 2017 — and that issue was local traffic. “That was the primary factor in how I voted,” said Roem’s new constituent. “Someone has to fix Route 28.”