There is an important race for state delegate in Virginia’s District 13. It pits Republican Bob Marshall, a bigoted, homophobic longtime delegate, against a Democrat who is an intelligent young woman who happens to be transgender. Danica Roem is an impressive candidate with a comprehensive and impressive knowledge of her District, Virginia government, and a commitment to the people she grew up with and hopes to serve. While Danica has her work cut out for her to defeat Marshall it is fair to say not only Virginia but the country will be better off if she does.
A Mother Jones column by Ashley Dejean described Marshall this way, “Marshall, a delegate since 1992, was the author of the amendment that enshrined discrimination into the state’s constitution in 2006, by defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. And when he ran, unsuccessfully, for US Congress in 2014, he was described by the Atlantic as “basically the culture war’s four-star general”—a profile he continues to live up to. In January, he introduced what LGBT advocates described as one of the most dangerous bathroom bills in the country.” It turns out the proposal crossed a line even for the very right leaning Virginia Republicans and they killed the bill.
It is not only the LGBT community Marshall has insulted and hurt with his legislative initiatives and comments. In the same Atlantic column there was a compilation of some of the most outrageous things Marshall has said. “According to an interview in the Washington Times, he regrets none of his comments. Those comments include remarks on disabled children (they can be God’s punishment to women who have had abortions), incest (sometimes, it’s “voluntary”), and the Supreme Court (Justice Kennedy is probably “a homosexual”). When asked about those controversial remarks, the candidate said, “I don’t care. I mean, if I say something in public, I say it in public.”
It’s the voters in the 13th District who have the chance to put an end to Marshall’s hate-filled political career. Many Republicans in Prince William County and Manassas Park who Marshall represents are saying privately they are embarrassed by what he says and does. This year they have the opportunity to prove with their votes they are ready for change. They can show Prince William County and Manassas Park have grown and no longer will allow Marshall and the hate he spews to represent them.
Roem, the Democrat, is a lifelong resident of Prince William County. She knows the local issues backwards and forwards having written about them as a reporter for the Prince William Times for nine years. She understands one of the major issues for the county is transportation having reported on all the issues from I-66 to routes 15,28,29,55, and 234 as well as the Bi-County Parkway.
Wherever she campaigns she repeats her commitment to focus on finally getting Route 28 fixed. She also understands what it would mean to Manassas if the VRE is extended; if downtown office space in Manassas Park would be rented and Innovation Park built up. These are all issues Marshall hasn’t bothered to deal with.
Danica is a stepmom and both understands and is passionate about education issues. She supports higher pay for teachers because she wants every child to have a qualified, caring teacher in their classroom and knows to make that happen Virginia must be able to attract those teachers and then keep them in the state and the classrooms of Prince William County.
Danica is transgender but that isn’t the reason most of her supporters are working hard to elect her. Being transgender is a part of her life that has made her more open to all people. It has given her more of an insight than some of us may have into how people who others may see as ‘different’ must cope and relate to their community. That knowledge has made her a stronger person. She is a strong supporter of the Dream Act, civil rights, disability rights, LGBTQ+ equality, women’s rights and economic equality. She understands what it would mean to guarantee workers a livable minimum wage and affordable and accessible healthcare.
Danica Roem is the real thing. A strong, intelligent woman who will fight for the residents and families of Prince William County. She is committed to making a difference for the people she grew up with and to making Prince William County an even more vibrant and growing community known as a place welcoming to all.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.