While many eyes were on Virginia's gubernatorial primaries Tuesday night (and understandably so, what with the record-breaking Democratic turnout and the GOP coming astoundingly close to nominating a Confederate apologist), dozens of other candidates were battling to appear on the ballot this fall, too. The many House of Delegates primary contests settled yesterday received less fanfare but are no less important to Democratic success in the Commonwealth.
Democrats entered the evening in a great place: No matter who won, 53 excellent Democratic candidates would be vying for GOP-held seats this fall. (Republicans, on the other hand, are trying to flip a mere six Democratic seats.)
Now that the primaries are settled, we know that more than half of this fall's Democratic challengers are women—and one woman in particular is guaranteed to get under her GOP opponent's skin in a way no other candidate could.
Democrat Danica Roem emerged from a four-way primary with a healthy victory, earning her the right to take on GOP Del. Bob Marshall in the 13th State House District this fall.
Roem is a transgender woman. Marshall happens to be most virulently anti-LGBT and right-wing lawmaker in the House of Delegates. (Sen. Dick Black [R-Plastic Fetus] contests Marshall's spot as the craziest right-winger in the entire General Assembly.)
Just how anti-LGBT is Marshall, you ask? Well …
- He led the fight in the House this year for an anti-transgender "bathroom bill" that was somehow worse than North Carolina's (it allowed anyone who found someone in the "wrong" bathroom to sue the relevant government authority for failing to prevent such an outrage).
- When Congress finally repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he fought to prevent gay soldiers from serving in the Virginia National Guard (claiming that he worried about gay troops spreading STDs).
- His bigotry moved him to derail the nomination of a highly-respected and qualified judicial nominee who happened to be gay.
- He's claimed in national media that LGBT "behavior" reduces one's lifespan "by about 20 years."
- He wrote a very stern letter to the chair of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank in 2011 for flying a rainbow flag next to the American flag during Pride Month, calling it "a celebration of a behavior that is still a class six felony in Virginia" and "an attack on public morals.”
- In 2015, he tried to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination by any worker or business, public or private.
Marshall isn't a big fan of women, either.
- He's fought against Virginia universities that dispensed the morning-after pill.
- He was a huge supporter of Virginia's infamous forced transvaginal ultrasound bill in 2012 and even took to the House floor to excoriate his party when his colleagues finally buckled under public pressure (and the national aspirations of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell) and dialed back the measure.
- He stands by claims that disabled children can be the result of God punishing women for having abortions. He's tried to allow insurance companies to deny women coverage for contraception.
Enough about Marshall. He's terrible. But he keeps getting elected in a district that voted 55-40 for Hillary Clinton last fall. How is Danica Roem going to take him down?
First, the 13th District, while definitely more Republican in odd years than in even, is not reliably red. In 2013, Marshall won his district just 51-49 while Democrat Terry McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli here in the governor's race that same year. Marshall did better in HD13 in 2015, but zero statewide races were on the ballot and turnout was much lower that year than it was in 2013 (12,752 total votes cast versus 17,429).
Besides the statewide contests driving turnout this fall, turnout in Tuesday's Democratic primary is also a positive indicator for Roem's performance in November. In 2015, Democrats cast a total of 5,592 votes in the general election in the 13th District. On Tuesday, 4,337 Democrats came out to vote for House candidates in a June primary.
Roem, a journalist, has proven herself to be a tenacious, hard-working candidate who's focusing on the real issues that impact residents of her district. Her signature issue in the primary was roads—specifically, the terrible traffic on Route 28 in Prince William County (seriously, it's awful). She's going to run on all the things Marshall gives short shrift while he's busy crusading for his hateful causes in the state capitol each winter—real issues like bringing more, better-paying jobs to the district, improving roads, increasing teacher pay, and expanding health care coverage. She'll be advocating to protect LGBT rights, too, but it's one issue among many facing Virginians—which seems to be something Marshall forgot a long time ago.