January 6, 2017 at 9:10 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Transgender journalist challenges Bob Marshall in Va. House

Danica Roem, gay news, Washington Blade

Danica Roem is a transgender journalist who is challenging Virginia state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) (Photo courtesy of Danica Roem)

A journalist would become the first openly transgender person ever elected to the Virginia General Assembly if she were to defeat state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) in November.

Danica Roem on Tuesday announced her campaign against the anti-LGBT Republican who has represented the 13th District in the Virginia House of Delegates since 1992.

Roem, a Manassas resident who attended local schools, was a reporter for the Gainesville Times from 2006-2015. She also worked for the Prince William Times, which is an offshoot of the Gainesville Times, from 2011-2015.

She covered Virginia for the National Journal from 2009-2013.

Roem was the Montgomery County (Md.) Sentinel’s news editor from August 2015 through last month. She said she plans to continue writing for the newspaper, but “in a diminished capacity.”

Roem, 32, told the Washington Blade on Wednesday during a telephone interview that transportation, economic development and education are her top campaign issues.

She stressed the need to “fix” Route 28 in order to reduce traffic congestion. Roem also told the Blade she supports the extension of the Virginia Railway Express commuter trains to Innovation Technology Park as a way to bolster the area’s high-tech industry.

“If we have mass transit that actually connects to transportation, we can market that area a whole lot more effectively,” she said. “We lose jobs to Tysons Corner. We lose jobs to the Research Triangle of North Carolina because we haven’t maximized our potential with innovation.”

Roem last September testified in support of a proposal that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Prince William County School District’s nondiscrimination policy.

“We need nondiscrimination policies that include us,” she said.

Roem said she would work to reduce school overcrowding in the district. She also told the Blade she supports an increase of teacher salaries in Manassas and Manassas Park, which she described as the lowest in northern Virginia.

“That’s sad at best and we’ve got to do better,” said Roem.

Marshall ‘effective as a rookie member of the minority party’

Roem announced her candidacy on the same day that Marshall introduced a bill that would prohibit people from entering “a restroom or other facility designated for use by members of the opposite sex.”

House Bill 1612, which is also known as the Physical Privacy Act, would also require public school principals to notify a parent or guardian within 24 hours if their child “requests to be recognized or treated as the opposite sex, to use a name or pronoun inconsistent with the child’s sex, or to use a restroom or other facility designated for the opposite sex.”

“Del. Marshall once again has taken his eye off the ball by focusing on legislation that cost North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of jobs, the election of their Republican governor and would stigmatize his own constituents in the 13th district,” Roem told the Blade.

A measure that sought to prevent Virginia municipalities from banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are among the 41 bills that Marshall introduced during the 2016 legislative session. Roem pointed out to the Blade that only one of them passed.

“He’s as effective as a rookie member of the minority party,” she said.

Roem will face off against Mansimran Kahlon, chair of the Brentsville Magisterial District Democratic Committee, in the Democratic primary that will take place on June 13.

“I respect him a lot,” said Roem, noting she and Kahlon met after Thanksgiving. “I will not say a negative word for him.”

“We’re all in this together,” added Roem. “We would like to flip the House of Delegates so that we can get a Democratic majority.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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