Delegate contest pits a socially conservative incumbent against a transgender newcomer.
Editor’s Note: The fundraising data in this article has been updated.
He’s a 73-year-old incumbent who has served in the Virginia House of Delegates since 1992 with two unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate. She’s a 33-year-old journalist who covered Prince William County for nine years. He’s carved out a national reputation for independence and social conservatism, sometimes landing in hot water for controversial positions on abortion, homosexuality and transgender rights. She’s garnered national attention as an openly transgender candidate who could become the first such state legislator in the nation to be elected and seated. Both have solutions on the issues that matter most to Manassas Park and Prince William County, whether it’s traffic, school choice or immigration. And on Nov. 7, they’ll go head-to-head in the race for Virginia’s 13th District.
Del. Bob Marshall, who declined to be interviewed for this article, projects a businesslike and austere demeanor in speeches on the House floor and television interviews. Over the course of his career, both in the House and as a staffer for Stafford-based American Life League, Marshall has been a staunch anti-abortion advocate, defending an unborn child’s right to life even in cases of rape and incest. He’s also railed against intrusions on privacy, including a 2016 effort to restrict the use of license-plate readers. And in 2017, Marshall made headlines by introducing a “bathroom bill” that would have required government building visitors to use bathrooms matching the gender listed on their birth certificates—an issue that positions him squarely against his opponent. Of the nearly six dozen bills and resolutions Marshall introduced in the 2016-17 term, 20 percent addressed social issues, 18 percent dealt with crime or gun rights, and several others focused on privacy and transportation.
On a well-worn couch in her campaign office, Danica Roem holds a stack of handwritten notes she leaves for voters who aren’t at home when she stops by. On more than one occasion, the loquacious and sarcastic candidate says she has received phone calls from some of those residents letting her know she’s just secured another vote. Though Roem lives near Marshall and has attended the same Catholic church, the political neophyte is in many ways the symbolic antithesis of her opponent. Yet rather than make her gender the central issue of her campaign, the stepmom and lead singer of a metal band says she’s focused on the “quality of life” issues facing her district, especially traffic on Route 28.
Out-fundraising her opponent by more than 2 to 1, according to the most recent Virginia Public Access Project data, Roem is in a position to potentially knock Marshall from a seat he’s held for decades. The race has grown contentious, with Marshall using male pronouns to refer to Roem and refusing to debate her, and Roem fighting back with a web ad saying her gender shouldn’t be “political.” In a district whose residents elected Marshall with 56 percent of the vote in 2015 but chose Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, the 13th District is one to watch.
Party affiliation: Republican
Born: Takoma Park, Maryland
Family: Wife, five children (one deceased)
Education: B.A. in history and philosophy, Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, North Carolina; M.A. in humanities, California State University, Long Beach, California
Occupation: Member of House of Delegates 13th District, research consultant
Experience: Vice president of business development, Shenandoah Electronic Intelligence; Adjunct professor, George Mason University; Director of congressional information,
American Life League; Legislative assistant for Rep. John Blatnik; Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party; Rep. Bob Dornan, R-Calif.; and Sen. Jeremiah Denton, R-Ala.
Source: Del. Marshall’s office, Marshall campaign Website
Party affiliation: Democrat
Family: Partner, stepchild
Education: B.A. in journalism/mass communication, St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, New York
Experience: News editor, Montgomery County Sentinel;News reporter and sports editor, Virginia News Group; Content writer, Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Registry; Staff writer, The Hotline and National Journal Group
Source: Roem campaign
On the Issues
Editor’s Note: Del. Marshall declined to be interviewed by ‘Northern Virginia Magazine’ for the purposes of this article. Marshall’s responses are extracted from his campaign website. Roem was interviewed in September. Statements from both candidates have been edited for length and clarity.
Route 28 Congestion
Marshall: I serve on the Route 28 Executive Committee studying Rt. 28 improvements and hope it will result in a real solution. Road planners told us that projects will take at least seven years to complete with costs around $240 million. Fairfax and Prince William Supervisors may both have to agree on one route. No matter which long-term Route 28 fix the counties agree to, we should further examine reversible lanes on Route 28 for a short-term solution. Little to no asphalt is needed. Homes and businesses will not be condemned. The existing median could be reversed with overhead lane signals.
Roem: The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority has allocated $300 million for the Route 28/I-66 intersection to turn into an interchange, to take out the traffic lights and replace them with overpasses. At the same time, the private conglomerate that wants to toll I-66 has to put up $300 million for the same project. That will free up the NVTA’s money, and I’m calling on the NVTA to keep that money on Route 28 so we can replace the traffic lights with overpasses at Compton Road, New Braddock Road and Old Centreville Road. Traffic lights stop traffic. That is the problem.
Marshall: VDOT along with the Commonwealth Transportation Board has struck a deal with a foreign company to “transform” I-66 outside the Beltway. With proposed $17/day tolls inside the Beltway (except for HOV-3) and additional HOT lane tolls, HOT lane users going from Haymarket to D.C. could pay tolls of up to $92/day round-trip! This strikes me as highway robbery and I have worked to stop this plan from being implemented from the beginning. The imposition of HOT lane tolls by Gov. McAuliffe I believe will seriously depress the value of homes in Prince William, Manassas, Manassas Park, Fairfax and Loudoun because the cost to commute will increase significantly, as will the cost of doing business for any company that uses I-66 to deliver products or services.
Roem: I oppose all tolling of roads in Northern Virginia. [Virginia Sen.] Chuck Colgan proved that we don’t have to toll roads in order to pay for them. Thus, the Prince William County Parkway—it exists. You don’t have to pay tolls in order to go on the Prince William County Parkway, even though it’s a massive road. Public roadways should not be sold out for private profit. That is my policy position on this, and Chuck Colgan demonstrated that if you are fiscally responsible in the General Assembly, you can fund transportation projects without having to toll them.
Marshall: HB 122 (2006), which became law, provides that Virginia Small, Woman-owned and Minority (SWAM) businesses be given bidding preference for state contracts over SWAMs from other states which do not treat Virginia businesses equally. My legislation also streamlined the written application process and cut red tape allowing companies doing business with Virginia state and local agencies to not be required to fill out multiple certifications to bid on state/local contracts. Once a company is qualified to do business in one jurisdiction, the company is qualified to do business in any other. My legislation saved businesses time, paperwork and costs associated with doing [business] with the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Roem: Our main economic development hub in Western Prince William County is at Innovation Park. And that area in particular has been zoned for our high-tech, biotech and defense programs for jobs. When we were in the running for the FBI headquarters, we lost out in the first round because we didn’t have mass rail connecting out to Innovation Park. In order to make Prince William County more competitive with Fairfax County, we have to have mass transit connecting to our main economic development hubs. If we had multiple southbound VRE trains running every day from Union Station out to Innovation Park, we could make a very compelling case saying, yeah, we don’t have Metro there, but we do have the VRE, and it’s actually more reliable.
Marshall: In 2007, my HB 1673 established the Virginia Commission on Immigration (on which I served). I voted for bills to require E-verify, to ensure that employers who hire workers who break immigration laws pay for worker’s compensation claims, to turn youth gang members over to federal officials if they are here illegally, to deny state or local benefits or assistance to unauthorized immigrants, and to require proof of legal presence for in-state tuition rates. In July 2010, I sought and obtained an opinion from the Virginia Attorney General that law enforcement officers have the authority to check the immigration status of persons during traffic stops.
Roem: For crime prevention, and when it comes to undocumented folks, we have to focus on people who are causing harm in their communities, not people like the pastor down in Dumfries who has done nothing wrong since he got into the country. I’m not going to target people who are fleeing violence and fleeing absolute desperation when they have nothing but the shirt on their back and their hopes in their hearts of coming to the United States in the first place because they’re fleeing war and poverty.
Marshall: The ancient Greek writer Plutarch noted that “it is never too early to form the character and habits of the child.” Parents have the primary duty and inalienable right to educate their children as they see fit. As your Delegate since 1992, I have been an unwavering supporter of both home-schooling and school voucher (like the G.I. Bill) or tax credit programs. I firmly support the right of parents to freely choose the schools their children attend, since they all pay taxes that fund our schools. Education vouchers or tax credits for parents will improve public schools through healthy competition, and allow parents to choose the best learning environment for their children.
Roem: [I] attended four years of public school and 13 years of Catholic school; I know the value of both public and private education. As someone who attended private schools from fourth grade through college, I know that tax dollars from the public should be used for public schools. In Prince William County, we have the lowest teacher pay in Northern Virginia despite our population being the second largest in Virginia. Depriving public schools of any additional tax dollars hurts students, faculty and teachers. We need to increase public education funding, not put our public schools into competition for dollars with private schools. One other thing: Encourage kids to be who they are and be that well. Every child deserves a safe learning environment. Every child deserves to be respected.