Roem was feeling cautiously optimistic, but her training as a journalist had taught her to gather all of the facts first. Around 8 p.m., she believed it was way too early to declare she’d beaten her opponent, Robert G. Marshall, 73, a 13-term incumbent Republican who has called himself the state’s “chief homophobe.”
She was anxiously pacing around a restaurant in Prince William County, one of several stops before the “watch party” where she’d planned to connect with her campaign manager and supporters to see the results come in.
Democrat Danica Roem defeated incumbent Del. Robert G. Marshall (R) on Nov. 7 and became Virginia’s first openly transgender elected official. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)
“I’m thinking ‘Whoa the absentee ballots are out, I don’t want to jinx it. There’s only 19 of 20 precincts counted,’ ” she recalled.
All of a sudden, her phone rang. A voice on the other end said former vice president Joe Biden wanted to talk with her. A few seconds later, she heard Biden’s familiar voice.
Biden offered her a hearty ‘Congratulations,’ and just like that, the realization that she had won started to wash over her.
“When the former vice president of United States calls you, that’s usually the point when you can go ahead and declare victory,” said Roem.
As they talked, she reminded him that the two had spoken in 2015 at Biden’s son’s funeral. Roem had driven to Wilmington to pay respects to Beau Biden, former Delaware attorney general, who died from brain cancer.
Roem waited in line for hours to offer condolences to the Bidens for their son, whom she admired in part for his support of a statewide transgender rights bill.
“I thanked him for raising someone with the character of Beau, who helped get transgender rights passed,” Roem remembers telling Biden at the funeral.
She said Biden put his hands on her shoulders, looked her in the eye and said “We mean that. We mean that.” Then he kissed her hand and hugged her.
“You turn to goo, your knees just buckle,” Roem said. “He was there telling a transgender woman that her rights are worth protecting.”
During the election night phone call, Biden told her that he, too, remembered the moment, she said.
Biden, who has called transgender rights the “civil rights issue of our time,” supported Roem and four other Democrats running for the House of Delegates in November.