A record number of LGBTQ candidates are running for seats in the Virginia House of Delegates this year — five LGBTQ individuals are seeking election across Virginia and one’s seeking re-election in his district.
Democratic candidate Dawn Adams is running for a seat in the 68th district, which covers much of Richmond’s Fan area into Chesterfield and Henrico.
Adams told Metro Weekly she is running because she is frustrated with the the Republican-led General Assembly and their priorities. She also said the 2016 presidential election pushed her to a career change — nurse practitioner to lawmaker.
Danica Roem is an openly transgender woman who is running against Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William who sponsored a North Carolina-style transgender bathroom bill which would have prohibited entering bathrooms “designated for the opposite sex.”
If elected, Roem would be the first openly transgender lawmaker in in the United States, but she wouldn’t be the first transgender women to make it to the House floor.
Althea Garrison, a Republican politician from Boston, served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995. However, Garrison never acknowledged she was transgender and was outed by Mitt Romney’s advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, who after her election produced a birth certificate identifying her as male.
In rural Virginia, Ben Hixon is running for seat in the 30th district, representing Madison, Orange and Culpeper counties. Ben describes himself as a progressive libertarian and is running on a platform of more vocational schools.
Hixon is running against Del. Nicholas Freitas, R-Culpeper, who last year sponsored a bill that would allow private businesses to deny service to LGBT couples. Hixon told GayRVA when he realized Freitas re-election would have a personal impact on him and his partner, he decided to run against him.
Other LGBTQ candidates in Virginia include Rebecca Colaw, of the 64th district, and Kelly DeLucia, of the 96th district.
Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, is one of the Virginia General Assembly’s first openly gay lawmakers. Levine said although being gay did come up in his campaign when talking about his activism, it wasn’t a running point.
“The Governor didn’t realize until months after my first session that I am gay, it just doesn’t come up all the time,” Levine said. “So I would say half my constituents don’t know, not because I hide it, but because it’s not the first thing people think when they think about me.”
Levine has been on the campaign trail with what he refers to as “Rainbow candidates” like Adams and Hixon. He said he has suggested to the other candidates what he has done on his campaign — not to hide it, but also let it be a defining factor.
“They are not running because they are diverse, they are running because they are strong candidates that represent their communities, know the issues and are very good,” said Levine. “Diversity is a bonus.”
Mary Lee Clark