All of Virginia’s 140 legislative seats will be on the ballot next week, as both parties vie for control of the statehouse – and our LGBTQ candidates could determine the outcome.
Following the 2017 elections, Democrats are one seat shy of taking the majority in both the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. A recent VCU poll asking voters whether they’d prefer a Democratic or Republican statehouse majority gives Democrats a slight advantage among independent voters. Among independents, 46 percent favor a Democratic majority, while 41 percent favor Republicans and 13 percent didn’t know or refused to state a preference. The Democratic advantage extends to the race for cash as well. Heading into the election, Democrats running for legislative seats raised $8.1 million in September, when Republicans raised $4.6 million.
LGBTQ candidates are at the center of some of the most important battlegrounds in this year’s Virginia state legislative races, with five Victory Fund candidates defending their seats as incumbents. Meet them below:
Dawn made history as the first openly lesbian state legislator elected in Virginia when she won her race in House District 68 in 2017. It was one of the closest races in all of Virginia, with Dawn winning by just over 300 votes. A nurse practitioner, educator, researcher and healthcare advocate, Dawn is the only openly LGBTQ legislator serving a district outside of Northern Virginia, representing Richmond and parts of Henrico and Chesterfield Counties. As a legislator, Dawn has fought to expand healthcare access and prevent gun violence. It is expected to again be a close race this November.
First elected to the state senate in 2011, Adam Ebbin previously served two terms in the House of Delegates as its first openly LGBTQ member. His Northern Virginia district, the 30th, includes Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax Counties. In the legislature, Adam has led the fight for seniors, immigrants and the LGBTQ community and has served as Chair of the Virginia Commission on the Prevention of Human Trafficking.
A longtime progressive activist, constitutional scholar and media personality, Mark Levine represents parts of Alexandria, Arlington County and Fairfax County in the House of Delegates. Mark’s commitment to the LGBTQ community goes back decades. He was one of the original champions of marriage equality and served as a senior aide to out Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Barney Frank. He hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, The Inside Scoop from Washington, and regularly appears on cable television. As a legislator, he’s responsible for requiring Virginia statehouse proceedings to be recorded and archived online through his work as co-founder of the bi-partisan Virginia Transparency Caucus and has fought to protect victims of crime.
Danica Roem made history in 2017 when she defeated 25-year incumbent “Bigot Bob” Marshall by nine points and went on to become the first openly transgender candidate seated in any state’s legislature. As a member of the House of Delegates, Danica has fought to expand Medicaid, raise teacher pay, and finally fix Route 28. This year, she faces reelection against another bigot, Kelly McGinn, who has compared marriage equality to slavery and called adoptions by LGBTQ parents “absurd.” It is expected to be a close race.
Mark Sickles is the Deputy Democratic Leader in the Virginia House, making him the only openly LGBTQ legislator currently serving in caucus leadership. Mark has represented Fairfax County’s District 43 in the statehouse since 2004 and came out as gay in 2014 in a Washington Post op-ed in support of marriage equality. Prior to becoming a legislator, Mark was active in state and local politics, working on several campaigns and chairing the Fairfax County Democrats.