Metro Weekly

Danica Roem to be among headliners at DNC’s LGBTQ Gala

Roem made history when she was elected, becoming America's first openly transgender state lawmaker

Danica Roem – Photo by Julian Vankim

The Democratic National Committee has announced that Virginia Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas Park) will be one of the featured speakers at its 19th annual LGBTQ Gala in New York on June 25.

Roem, who joins Olympian Gus Kenworthy as a featured speaker, will make history by becoming the first openly transgender elected official to speak at a major party gala in the United States.

No stranger to making history, Roem also became the country’s first out transgender elected official in Virginia after defeating longtime anti-LGBTQ activist Bob Marshall last November.

Despite attacks on her gender identity, Roem relentlessly focused her campaign message on fixing local roads and improving transportation infrastructure, expanding access to health care, and fostering economic development in her native Prince William County.

It’s that laser-like focus on important bread-and-butter issues and the constant contact she’s kept with her constituents that not only helped her win, but have helped her keep her priorities straight in Richmond. It also serves as a model that can — and perhaps should — be emulated by Democrats running in competitive races in this year’s upcoming midterm elections.

“When Democrats flipped 15 Republican seats in the Virginia House of Delegates last year, we sent a signal across the country that no seat should go uncontested,” Roem said in a statement. “Now as we approach the final six-month stretch of the 2018 cycle, it’s so important to make sure every Democrat from the school board to the Senate has the resources and tools they need to fight and win. DNC Chair Perez knows every ZIP code counts and when Democrats organize and compete everywhere, we win.”

The success of Virginia Democrats up and down the ticket in November also served as a warning for Republicans ahead of the 2018 election that running on divisive cultural issues, as President Trump did in 2016, will not ensure Republicans maintain control of Congress.

“Danica Roem is a brilliant public servant and one of our nation’s most passionate voices for equality,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “Even in the face of hatred and bigotry from this administration, Danica has never stopped fighting for the issues that matter to the hardworking families she represents. And there’s no question that her community is stronger for her leadership and her commitment to the Democratic values of inclusion and opportunity for all.”

Last year, the DNC invested approximately $1.5 million to help elect Gov. Ralph Northam and other Democrats, which allowed them to hire more organizers who oversaw an extensive phone-banking and canvassing campaign aimed at motivate likely Democratic voters to the polls. The party hopes to duplicate that success on a much larger scale come November.

Begun in 1999, the LGBTQ Gala started as a small dinner held by former DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias, and has grown as the LGBTQ community plays a stronger role in politics, particularly within Democratic circles. The gala also serves as one of the party’s marquee events, and typically features some of the party’s top activists or political figures as headliners, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

That also speaks to how well respected Roem is both among the Democratic party brass and among the party’s most loyal activists and donors, who will be in attendance at the event.

“Danica is a trailblazer and hero, giving visibility to the transgender community, inspiring Americans across the country, and showing that great candidates matter in tough races,” DNC Finance Chair Henry Munoz said in a statement. “With her help, and by following her history-making example, Democrats are going to win victories across the board this fall — from statehouses to Congress. We are grateful that she’ll join us to raise resources later this year.”

Roem, ever the policy wonk, also gave a hint about what she plans to talk about at the gala, tweeting: “This may be the first LGBTQ gala keynote that includes ‘alternative intersection designs along the Route 28 corridor in Yorkshire,’ ‘replace cast iron water pipes with ductile iron water pipes’ and ‘commuter rail efficiency.’ Oh, and, ‘LGBTQ health care is health care.’ That too.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com