A Plus' Game Changer Of The Year

Meet The Woman Who Out-Hustled Virginia's 'Chief Homophobe'

Part 4 of A Plus's Game Changer of the Year series.

On paper, Danica Roem probably didn't look like she had a shot to win a seat in Virginia's House of Delegates.

She's a trans woman who ran as a Democrat in a political body that, until this election cycle, was 66 percent Republican. She was up against an incumbent who held the office for 25 years and proudly referred to himself as Virginia's "chief homophobe."

And yet, Roem had little doubt about what would happen on election night.

"I expected to win because our volunteer base was so incredibly active, so incredibly strong," Roem told A Plus. "I owe everything to my volunteers and staffers who poured their hearts and souls into this. That's why we won, because we out-hustled, and we had a great message that was consistent from January 3 all the way through November 7."

When it was all said and done, Roem received 53 percent of the more than 22,000 votes in the race, becoming the first openly transgender person to ever get elected to a state House seat. She received an emotional call from former vice president Joe Biden and made national headlines for her history-making victory. Now that she's been elected, her message is still unwavering: she's focused on a massive plan to fix up Route 28, finding a way to expand Medicaid to Virginians in her district and passing a sweeping government accountability bill.

Roem's hard work prior to the election and following it on behalf of Virginians is one of the reasons we're proud to call her one of A Plus's Game Changers of 2017.

But Roem also got some help along the way. Back in February, she went to a three-day candidate campaign training boot camp with Emerge Virginia, a group aiming to increase the number of Democratic women running for office in Virginia. Asked what advice Roem had for other women and members of the LGBT community thinking about running for office, she didn't hesitate: seek out help. 

"The first thing I would recommend for women or LGBT folks running for office is to go to a candidate and campaign training program," Roem said. "There are people and there are organizations out there who want you to succeed because of who you are and not in spite of it."

Roem stressed her hope that more women continue to run for office, noting how shocking it is that there isn't a single state legislature in the country with of women — let alone the House of Representatives or Senate. Still, the progress is evident. Organizations like Emerge Virginia and EMILY's list have received unprecedented numbers of women reaching out because they are interested in pursuing elected office. 

On top of that, the wave of activism across the country — particularly activism led by women — has inspired Roem. 

"It means that women — not only are we asserting our voices at this point — but we're putting ourselves in positions of leadership," Roem said. "Kids like my stepdaughter and daughters across across America, as well as sons, as well as children who maybe don't identify within a gender binary to begin with, can look at moms and look at stepmoms and these amazing women in their lives and say 'hey, she's doing this, that means I can too.'"

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