Danica Roem Makes Trans History
Danica Roem’s history-making journey began as an unknown candidate joined a four-way Democratic primary for a state legislative seat in Virginia. The incumbent, Republican Bob Marshall – the self-described “chief homophobe” of the House of Delegates – had held the seat for more than 25 years. Roem’s candidacy seemed the definition of a long-shot.
Yet she put in the hard work of campaigning, knocking on thousands of doors and famously showing voters the bottom of her worn out shoes. She kept on message, being open about her gender identity but focusing her pitch on everyday issues including fixing “Fix Route 28 Now!” – a commuter road in her district notorious for bad traffic. On primary day, June 13, she defeated her closest competitor by 15 points.
Once in the general election, Marshall continued his homophobic and transphobic rhetoric and consistently misgendered her. Victory Fund branded him “Bigot Bob,” a nickname that stuck and was often referenced in media reports. She was relentless in continuing to focus on the needs of constituents, outraising Marshall five-to-one with contributions from Virginians and LGBTQ+ donors across the country. On November 7, she defeated Marshall, winning nearly 57 percent of the vote. She became the first out trans person to win and serve in a state legislative seat.
“For trans youth across the country, Danica Roem’s election isn’t just a headline or even history,” said Sarah McBride at the time. “It’s hope. Hope for a better tomorrow.” McBride would become the nation’s first out trans state senator in America in 2020. She was one of many trans candidates for state legislative seats and other positions who cited Roem’s win as inspiration for their runs. In 2018, just one year after Roem’s victory, four out trans people won state legislative seats.
Victory Fund realized the potential of Roem’s race early and invested heavily in her campaign – raising 41 percent of her primary budget and featuring her at its 2017 National Champagne Brunch. “Here’s the bottom line: I don’t know how I would have won without Victory Fund,” said Roem several months after her victory. “They had my back when I needed them the most, during the Democratic primary and in the general election. Victory Fund helped me raise thousands of dollars and recruit the volunteers who knocked on doors, made phone calls and put me over the top.”