If Danica Roem was anxious about “barriers to entry” when running for office, the results of the 2016 presidential election threw any uncertainties out the door.
“All Donald Trump’s election showed me was that there’s literally nothing in my background that disqualifies me from running,” Roem, who this month became Virginia’s first openly transgender elected official, told the U.K.’s Channel 4 in an interview published Thursday. “When you brag about sexually assaulting women and then you get elected anyway, there’s no barrier to entry anymore.”
“So I said, there’s nothing in my background even close to that, so yeah. Go run,” Roem continued. “What are they going to hit me on — my gender? OK, they did.”
Roem, a Democrat, won Virginia’s 13th District House of Delegates seat on Nov. 7. She toppled the incumbent, Robert Marshall, who has held the seat since 1992 and has described himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.”
At least 16 women have accused President Donald Trump of sexual assault. In a 2005 leaked “Access Hollywood” tape, Trump was heard boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy.”
“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” he’s heard saying in the audio clip. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Speaking to Channel 4, Roem described the challenges she faced on the campaign trail, from the exhaustion of campaigning to receiving “bad press” to people saying “mean things about you.”
Ultimately, she said, it was her constituents and supporters — like a 10-year-old trans girl who said she had contemplated suicide but was inspired by Roem’s story — who acted as the “jet fuel I needed to get through it.”
“They bring you back to why you’re doing it,” Roem said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article described Marshall as a “13-year incumbent.” In fact, Marshall is a 13-term incumbent, meaning he has served since 1992.