An early and decisive victory Tuesday by Ralph Northam cascaded into a series of down-ballot firsts for Democrats, with a half-dozen Republican incumbents unseated by barrier-breaking challengers.
It started with Danica Roem, a Manassas Park Democrat who unseated the state’s most prominent social conservative delegate to become the first openly transgender state lawmaker in the nation.
It’s a major victory for LGBTQ activists in its own right, but the victories for progressives kept rolling.
By the end of the night, voters across the state would elect:
- the state’s first openly lesbian candidate, Democrat Dawn Adams, who won a surprise (and narrow) victory in Richmond’s West End over Republican Del. Manoli Loupassi;
- the state’s first Latina delegates, Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala, both from Prince William County, who defeated Republican incumbents Scott Lingamfelter and Rich Anderson;
- the state’s first female Asian-American delegate, Kathy Tran, a Fairfax County Democrat who won an open seat over Republican Lolita Mancheno-Smoak; and
- the state’s first Democratic socialist Delegate, Lee Carter, who unseated House Majority Whip Del. Jackson H. Miller of Manassas even after state Democrats pulled their support for his candidacy.
It’s extremely rare for incumbents in Virginia to lose their seats — let alone a dozen, many to candidates who have traditionally been marginalized in state politics.
“Tonight was the transformation of Virginia politics,” said Bob Holsworth, a longtime Virginia political analyst. “First and foremost it was a total repudiation of Donald Trump, and anybody who had an ‘R’ next to their name was vulnerable. And the Democrats took advantage with a set of new candidates, people who came in with passion and energy in these House races.”
James Parrish, the executive director of the LGBT rights group Equality Virginia, called the victories historic.
“I think we’re going to see a change in the General Assembly, and that’s reflected tonight,” he said.
Roem’s victory over GOP incumbent Del. Robert G. Marshall, who introduced a “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people earlier this year, struck advocates as especially meaningful, particularly after Marshall’s campaign attacked Roem’s gender identity.
“We have proven that is not a winning strategy — demonizing people just based on their identity is wrong,” Parrish said.