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Danica Roem, a former journalist for the Montgomery County Sentinel and a lifelong resident of Manassas, Va., has announced she will run as a Democrat against longtime Republican Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas, Manassas Park, Bull Run), who is known best for his socially conservative views, including his vehement opposition to LGBT rights. Roem previously wrote for the Gainesville Times and the Prince William Times, covering local issues for those publications.
“I know the issues of the district really well, and I want to make a big, big difference when it comes to transportation, economic development, and education,” says Roem. “And at the same time, while we focus on fixing Route 28, bringing big-dollar jobs up to Innovation Technology Park, and filling the office vacancies along Manassas Drive, we have got to make Prince William County the most inclusive place it can be. And that goes for everyone: no matter who you love, what you look like, or where you come from.”
Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish says that, to his knowledge, Roem is the first openly transgender person to run for the General Assembly in the eight years he’s been serving as the organization’s executive director. Roem, who recently spoke in favor of the Prince William County School Board’s failed efforts to adopt nondiscrimination protections for LGBT students and employees, says she believes she can defeat Marshall in the state’s 13th House District.
First, Roem will have to face off against Mansimran Kahlon, the current Chairman for the Brentsville Magisterial District Democratic Committee, in the primary. Roem notes that the seat is a prime target for Democrats to flip, if Democratic gubernatorial voters vote all the way down the ballot instead of skipping down-ticket offices.
“I met with [Kahlon] the day after Thanksgiving. We had a great talk. I have nothing against him whatsoever,” she says. “And I will not say a negative word about any Democratic candidate running for office in Prince William County. I’m campaigning on my own experience, and I think that I would have a very, very good chance of defeating Bob Marshall this fall.”
Asked if she was prepared for a potential onslaught of negative ads should she emerge victorious from the primary, Roem says that she has not encountered any hostility from Prince William residents due to her transgender status, even when she spoke in favor of the LGBT nondiscrimination protections at two separate school board meetings.
“The funny thing is that the second day, when so many people spoke against something that I supported, I had a lot of conversations with the opponents of the policy,” she says. “And, to a person, every single one of them was extremely kind. No one was mean, vindictive, or nasty toward me. I had a lot of them come up to me and say, ‘What you’re doing takes a lot of courage,’ and ‘Even if I don’t agree with you, I respect what you’re doing.’
“I’m not going to run away from my identity whatsoever, not even in the least bit,” she adds. “But at the same time, I’m going to be campaigning strongly on the issues of the District: taking care of Route 28 finally — it was a mess 25 years ago when Del. Marshall got into office, and it’s still a mess. I know how to get it done without raising taxes — economic development, and education.”