MANASSAS, Va. - Virginia's Danica Roem, who made history Tuesday night by becoming the first openly transgender person elected and seated in a state legislature in the United States, says her victory makes it clear that voters want change when it comes to the issues she is passionate about. Roem says she plans to fulfill her promises and in fact, she's already started.
Roem unseated Bob Marshall, who has been a conservative Republican figure in the Virginia State Legislature for 26 years. Marshall was the state's longest serving lawmaker.
This year, Marshall introduced a bill that would have forced transgender people to use public restrooms associated with their birth gender, instead of the gender they identify with. That bill never made it out of committee, and became one of the reasons Roem, a first-time politician, was inspired to run for the District 13 seat.
Marshall was also the author of a now-void constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and sponsored a bill banning gay people from openly serving in the Virginia National Guard.
One pf the biggest reasons Roem ran is what some commuters describe as a dreadful commute along Route 28. Some say it can take up to two hours to get from the Manassas area to their jobs or Tysons Corner and D.C.
"It will be historic when a transgender woman finally helps fix Route 28 because that's what I'm here to do," Roem said in a live interview with FOX 5's Bob Barnard Wednesday morning. "This is why I ran."
Roem also focused on jobs and schools during her campaign. She says she was very specific about the issues her campaign was built on, and it resonated-- in part, because of her background. She was a reporter at the Gainesville Times for 9 years (plus 2 months and 2 weeks, to be exact) before running for office, and also worked as a news editor for the Montgomery County Sentinel in Maryland.
"Local journalism is where I learned public policy, and I'm going to bring a reporter's sensibilities to Richmond so we can actually accomplish the things I'm setting out to do without hyperbole, without discrimination, and basically making sure that we create a more inclusive Commonwealth, so no matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship or who you love, you are welcomed and celebrated in Virginia because of who you are, not despite it," she told FOX 5.
Roem told FOX 5 she believes her victory says voters want the changes she promised, and she's already started her quest to fulfill them. Her first move was talking to Senator Mark Warner after her win on Tuesday night, specifically about the traffic lights on Route 28.
"Him and I talked shop, and we're going to get it done," she said.
Roem also says she believes transparency and accountability are extremely important to the legislative process, and how Virginians perceive it.
"I believe in accountability. Every reporter who covers the general assembly will have my cell phone number," Roem vowed.
The delegate-elect also stressed that she doesn't need money from for-profit corporations to be a success in Richmond, and she won't take them.
"We have got to change the culture in Richmond, and sending two reporters between myself and Chris Hurst (a former Virginia local news anchor whose girlfriend, a reporter, was killed on live TV), that's a great start."