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Democrat Danica Roem Becomes Virginia's First Openly Trans State Senator

Democrat Danica Roem was elected Tuesday to become Virginia’s first openly transgender state senator.

With just over 51% of the vote, the 39-year-old defeated former Fairfax County police detective Bill Woolf, a conservative who was endorsed by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R). Woolf had promised to ban transgender athletes from participating in school sports if he was elected.

Roem’s election makes her the first openly transgender state senator in the South, and the second in the country. In 2020, Delaware’s Sarah McBride became the first out trans person elected to a state Senate.

“Danica faced an unprecedented deluge of anti-trans hate on the campaign trail, but she was not phased nor distracted,” said Annise Parker, former Houston mayor and president of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, a group that works to elect out LGBTQ+ officials.

“Tonight’s rainbow wave is a testament to the perseverance of LGBTQ+ political power and a bellwether for the 2024 election cycle,” she added in a Tuesday night statement. “Equality wins elections — not culture war scare tactics.”

Virginia Del. Danica Roem (D) was elected on Nov. 7, 2023, to serve Virginia's newly drawn 30th congressional district in the state Senate.
Virginia Del. Danica Roem (D) was elected on Nov. 7, 2023, to serve Virginia's newly drawn 30th congressional district in the state Senate.

Virginia Del. Danica Roem (D) was elected on Nov. 7, 2023, to serve Virginia's newly drawn 30th congressional district in the state Senate.

Roem made history in 2017 when she became the first openly transgender lawmaker to be elected to Virginia’s state House, beating a 26-year GOP incumbent who had sponsored the state’s failed transphobic “bathroom bill.” 

The Democrat has since been reelected to the state House twice, focusing on infrastructure issues, school resources and LGBTQ+ rights.

She announced in May 2022 that she planned to run in the newly drawn 30th District, which includes her home of western Prince William County and greater Manassas.

In her campaign announcement, Roem said she bridges “divides between Democrats and Republicans to make real change.”

During her campaign, Roem spoke about her success as a delegate in helping expand Medicaid and raising the pay for teachers in Virginia. She also talked about how dozens of her bills have become law — including some to help feed the hungry and to promote LGBTQ+ equality.

In the past year, Roem has also spoken up about Virginia’s new guidelines for how the state treats transgender students. According to what the state Department of Education called “model policies” released in September 2022, students must have parental permission to change their names.

Critics, including Roem, said that the rule would put transgender and gender-fluid students’ safety at risk by forcing them to come out to their parents, who may not be safe people to go to.

“The voters have shown they want a leaders who will prioritize fixing roads, feeding kids, and protecting our land instead of stigmatizing trans kids or taking away your civil rights,” Roem said in a statement after her victory.

“For the last six years, I’ve focused on serving my constituents and our community, no matter what they look like, where they come from, how they worship if they do, or who they love,” she continued. “It’s those principles that have guided every vote I’ve taken, every bill I carried, and every stance I’ve taken, and they are the principles I’ll carry with me into the state Senate.”

Roem’s election to the state Senate helped Virginia Democrats maintain control of the upper chamber. The party also gained control of the state House of Delegates, giving Democrats more power to block Youngkin’s conservative agenda, which includes anti-transgender legislation and enacting a 15-week abortion ban.

Democrats also won a majority Tuesday in a battleground Virginia school board race. Loudoun County quickly became the face of the fight for control in America’s public schools after several school board meetings made headlines in conservative media due to debates over so-called parental rights, LGBTQ+ issues and teaching about race.