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Why are you running to be a delegate for the General Assembly?

I’m running for the House of Delegates to fix Route 28, bring high-paying jobs to Innovation Park, fill office vacancies in Manassas Park and raise teacher pay in Prince William County and Manassas Park, all while working to make Virginia a more inclusive commonwealth.

What was the event/ news item/ comment, that made you decide to run for office.

When 2015 Democratic nominee Don Shaw said in an Aug. 4 email that he wouldn’t run and asked me to run, and then Del. Rip Sullivan the next day formally called to me to ask me to run, I said I would consider it but I needed to finish the remainder of 2016 as the news editor of the Montgomery County Sentinel before launching my campaign in 2017. I was also working hard on trying to encourage the Prince William County School Board to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the PWCS nondiscrimination policy.
As a transgender woman who’s been Del. Marshall’s constituent for 25 years and target of his discriminatory social legislation, I haven’t been happy with his constituent service. When he filed HB 385 in 2016 to try to bar school boards from protecting LGBTQ students and faculty through their nondiscrimination policies, I drove down to the General Assembly four times to help defeat that bill and eight other anti-LGBTQ bills, including another from Del. Marshall, who decided to legislate against his own constituents instead of doing anything at all during his 25-year career to fix the No. 1 quality of life problem plaguing his constituents: traffic congestion along Route 28 through Manassas, Manassas Park and Yorkshire (13th District) and Centreville (40th District).

I know for a fact I can deliver results better than Del. Marshall can, given that his own party killed 27 of his 30 bills this year and that 68 of his last 71 bills have failed since 2016. I have the experience covering government, lifelong ties to my home community and the policy knowledge to solve problems that he simply cannot or will not fix.

What qualities, characteristics, talents, or experience do you bring that would make you an effective delegate for your district?

I’m the only candidate in this race who is a lifelong resident of the 13th District. As the lead reporter for the Gainesville Times from 2006-2015, I also authored more than 2,500 news stories about the greater Prince William County area, which means I know the people of the district well and I know the issues affecting the district inside and out.

The skill sets I developed as a reporter covering stories in Haymarket, Gainesville, Manassas, Manassas Park and Yorkshire is directly transferable to what I can accomplish in the General Assembly through researching, listening, asking questions, listening some more, writing, editing and publishing.

What are the 2 to 3 issues on which you feel most passionate that you would want your district constituents to base their votes?

I’m a local candidate focusing on local issues. I want to building up our infrastructure, not tear down each other like Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) does with his discriminatory social legislation that singles out and stigmatizes his own constituents.
I’m the only candidate in this race, including Del. Marshall, with a proactive, detailed plan for fixing Route 28, the top quality of life issue we face: perpetual traffic congestion along Route 28.

My number one priority will be securing adequate transportation funding so we can replace traffic lights at Compton Road, Old Centreville Road and New Braddock Road along the Route 28 corridor while widening the road to six through-lanes near the Centreville movie theater by U.S. 29 and replacing the stop sign at Compton Road and Ordway Road with a traffic circle.

My second priority will be to bring high-paying jobs to Innovation Park in Manassas so our constituents can work in the same community where they live. In order to do that, we need to find a cost-effective way to extend the Virginia Railway Express west from the Broad Run station to at least Innovation Park, if not Gainesville. So I’ll submit a bill to create a first-of-its kind commuter rail efficiency study conducted by our engineering school at Virginia Tech and funded by the state to examine best practices out of Europe and Asia for rail engineering, design, maintenance, operations and construction that we could implement in Virginia. Given that labor unions are considerably stronger in France and Germany than they are in Virginia yet rail projects cost two to 10 times less there than they do here, the European model is clearly more efficient; we just need our engineers at Virginia Tech to examine why that is and what we can do better.
Meanwhile, I would like the state government to issue economic incentive grants to localities like the state currently does for private businesses to encourage localities to phase out their Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax or apply it to other economic development packages, like purchasing commercial property to fill office vacancies in Manassas Park. We lost the FBI headquarters in Prince William County at Innovation Park because we didn’t have mass rail connected to it. Meanwhile, Stafford County eliminated its BPOL tax and brought in a ton of jobs along with it. Phasing out the BPOL tax will incentivize more high-dollar defense, security, high tech and bio tech companies to set up shop at Innovation Park, which will broaden our commercial tax base, recoup the losses from the elimination of the BPOL tax and become a more reliable stream of revenue, which would help maintain or lower residential property taxes, all while supplying more revenue for teacher pay and capital improvement projects designed to alleviate overcrowding in schools.

Lastly, I want our residents to know that as the first transgender person to ever qualify for a ballot in Virginia, I want people from all walks of life to feel welcome in Virginia, no matter what they look like, where they come from, how they worship or who they love.

What positions separate you from the other candidate(s)?

I’m the only candidate in this race who has fought Del. Marshall and won in person, like when I traveled to the General Assembly four times in 2016 to defeat both of his anti-LGBTQ bills along with seven other anti-LGBTQ bills.

I’m the only candidate in this race who rebutted Del. Marshall’s testimony in front of the Prince William County School Board, something I did twice, when he advocated for discriminating against LGBTQ students and faculty.

I’m the only candidate in this race who called out Del. Marshall when he sent out a taxpayer-funded letter to constituents blaming them for his inability to secure adequate funding to fix Route 28.

I’m the only candidate in this race with a demonstrated history of taking the fight directly to Del. Marshall and I’m the only candidate in this race who spent nine years interviewing him, so I know his strengths and weaknesses inside and out.

I’m also the only candidate in this race with a detailed plan to address specific local issues, how I’m going to implement them and how I’m going to pay for them. I don’t just say we need to work on traffic congestion; I’ve outlined a plan to do it. I don’t just say we need to bring more jobs to the area; I’ve detailed how I plan to make that happen. I don’t just say we need to raise teacher pay; I’ve shown how improvements in our transportation infrastructure coupled with eliminating the competitive disadvantage Prince William County faces with Stafford County will spur job growth, generating more commercial tax revenue that we can apply toward teacher salaries.

I’m the only candidate in this race who has condemned the entire concept of the Bi-County Parkway as an environmental and personal property rights disaster waiting to happen and I’ve proposed a way to kill it off by increasing the value of conservation easements. I’m also the only candidate in this race who’s specifically called for improving our existing transportation infrastructure through intersection-by-intersection changes before backing Bus Rapid Transit, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and require dedicated right of way that currently doesn’t exist in order to implement.

Because I spent more than nine years covering local government, I also know how our proffer system works and I know that developers set aside school sites, not entire schools, in some of their proffer packages, often at the cost of exacerbating overcrowding at other schools. That’s why I’m the only candidate who has pledged to refuse any campaign contributions from residential developers.
As a journalist, I grilled politicians for years and developed a reputation as the most challenging interviewer in town. I expected my interview subjects to be well-versed and well-informed and I hold myself to the same standard.

What would be your first bill?

My first bill will be the first-of-its-kind rail efficiency study conducted by Virginia Tech and funded by the state to examine the best practices out of Europe and Asia for rail engineering, design, construction, maintenance and operations that we can apply to Virginia commuter rail projects. Whatever bill I submit regarding Route 28 will depend on what decisions made by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority between now and Nov. 7.

What bill would you cosponsor that the main patron is a Republican?

There are several Republican-sponsored bills from 2017 that did not pass that I would work to pass in 2018. Here are two that I feel particularly strong about:
1) HB 1891 / SB 1392 by Del. Tim Hugo (R-40) and Sen. Frank Wagner (R-7) to establish a tax credit from 2017-2021 for individuals to heat their homes with geothermal power. The problem with the legislation this year is there wasn’t an offsetting cost attached to the tax credit expenditure, so I would like to work with Sen. Wagner to find a way to make it a win-win for homeowners and the state budget.
2) SB 1456 by Sen. Frank Wagner (R-7) and cosponsored by three Democratic senators to establish a floor on the motor vehicles fuel tax in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. This bill would have fixed an error in the transportation funding bill HB 2313 that passed in 2013. The authors of that legislation did not anticipate the price of gas falling by more than $1 per gallon, which has left actual revenue far under their projected levels from four years ago. Sen. Wagner literally got stuck in traffic along I-64, the very road he intended to fix with that bill, on the way to the House committee hearing for it and the Republican majority killed it. I’ll happily champion that bill in the House to get it passed.


District Snapshot

Courtesy of District 13

Voter breakdown in VA district 13
This graph highlights the vote breakdown for each party in each locality compared to total vote and total active registered voters

The biggest opportunity for Democrats within the district are within the Prince William County precincts, since it makes up 86% of all the registered active voters.  There are 15 precincts, 9 of which that saw less than 25% participation. Those would be some areas to potentially target.

Further Reading

Ballotpedia page on Danica Roem

GayVA Danica Roem wants to beat Bob Marshall, be the first transgender woman in the VA General Assembly