Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

Online Extra: Political Notes: VA trans candidate gets SF assist

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

Virginia legislative candidate Danica Roem
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An LGBT political group in San Francisco is aiming to assist Virginia candidate Danica Roem in her bid to become her state's first transgender elected official and the first out transgender person to be seated in a state legislature.

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club is urging its members to help phone bank and raise money for Roem. In a recent email to its membership, the club noted that, "Sister District, the organization working to funnel blue political power into purple states, has partnered San Francisco with Danica's Northern Virginia district."

The email asked Alice members to join the Sister District's Facebook page for Roem where they can learn about upcoming fundraisers and phone banks for her campaign. It also sought Alice members to donate to her campaign and included a link (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/sd_va13) to do so online.

"A donation of even $10 can make a big difference in state races, and we think Danica has the chance to win big not just for Virginia's LGBT community, but for everyone in House District 13," stated the Alice club email.

In an emailed response to an interview request, Alice co-chairs Eric Lukoff and Louise E. Fischer told the Bay Area Reporter that the club's field team had brought up the idea to partner with Sister District. They noted that Alice has promoted several other national actions this year to its members – such as protesting repeal of the Affordable Care Act – and has partnered with other groups to work on various special elections.

"We are committed to helping Democratic LGBT candidates whenever we can, so helping Danica Roem and Sister District with promotion made a lot of sense," wrote Lukoff and Fischer. "She's running against a homophobic Republican and any attack against our community is an attack against all of us. We felt Danica's campaign was another great example of how we could get involved from afar."

A step-mom and former journalist, Roem is trying to oust anti-LGBT state Delegate Robert G. Marshall, who represents Prince William County in the Virginia House of Delegates. The 32-year-old beat three other Democrats in the June primary to compete against Marshall, 73, in the November 7 general election.

The septuagenarian lawmaker has espoused a number of anti-LGBT positions over the years. He sponsored Virginia's constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, which was later struck down when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, and opposed allowing gay troops to serve in the Virginia National Guard.

This year, Marshall proposed a "bathroom bill" similar to North Carolina's notorious House Bill 2 that would have barred transgender people from using public restrooms that align with their gender identity. It is an issue that Roem has been highlighting on the campaign trail as an example of how Marshall has ignored the real concerns of his 13th District constituents in the cities of Gainesville and Manassas.

As the general election approaches, Roem has been gaining more support from within the LGBT community. While the Human Rights Campaign stayed neutral in the primary race, the national LGBT rights advocacy group endorsed Roem in early August.

"By electing Danica Roem, voters will send a tireless advocate for fairness, equality, and Virginia values to represent them in Richmond," stated HRC President Chad Griffin. "We are proud to endorse Danica Roem and are committed to helping her make history by moving the commonwealth forward."

The national attention to her candidacy has helped Roem raise considerable funding for her campaign from outside her district and state. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, 68 percent of her funds raised as of June 30 – $67,278 – came from donors outside of Virginia, with $1,356 from Californians.

Altogether, Roem netted $149,064 in donations during the first half of the year and reported having $72,224 in cash on hand as of July 1. Marshall raised nearly $62,000 through June 30 and reported having $81,542 to spend on his re-election campaign, which he intends to kick into gear in the fall.

President Donald Trump's tweet in late July that he was banning transgender people from the military provided another bounce in funding for Roem. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who chairs the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, donated $50,000 to Roem's campaign in addition to the $35,000 he had already contributed toward her bid.

"Transgender military members ... have done more to serve and protect their country than Donald Trump ever will," Roem told the Washington Post.

The issue has become another flash point between Roem and her opponent, as Marshall told the newspaper he agreed with the president's policy.

"The money that would have been spent on costly and risky elective surgeries and decades of synthetic hormones that can cause cancer, in an effort to change sexual appearance, will be much better spent on treating our combat wounded servicemen and our veterans, and on buying equipment to keep our servicemen safe," Marshall said in an email to the Post.

With Hillary Clinton having won the legislative district in last year's presidential election with more than 54 percent of the vote, Democrats believe they have a chance of flipping the seat this year. Marshall won re-election in 2015 with 56 percent of the vote.

While Roem's victory and swearing-in would make history, she would not be the first transgender person to win a state legislative race.

The first person to run openly as a transgender legislative candidate and win election is believed to have been Stacie Laughton , who was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2012. But due to a prior criminal conviction that was unearthed by local media after the election, Laughton relinquished her seat prior to being officially sworn into office.

Althea Garrison is the first known transgender person to win a state legislative seat, though she came out after being elected. Running as a Republican, she won her 1992 Massachusetts House of Representatives race and served one two-year term.

According to the 2015 report "Standing Out: Transgender and Gender Variant Candidates and Elected Officials Around the World," prepared for the LGBTQ Representation and Rights Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, there have been no transgender candidates for California's state Legislature.

To join the Sister District Facebook page for Roem, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/sisterdistrictfordanicaroem - _=_.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.






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