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Roem on Route 28: ‘We can fix the roadway without raising taxes’

Longtime journalist Danica Roem seeks to unseat Bob Marshall in Virginia’s 13th House of Delegates District. 

Roem submitted responses to our Project: Election survey posted below the jump.
Election information for 2017 from the Virginia Office of Elections: 
6/13/17 June Primary (called if needed)
Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, May 22, 2017

Deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m.

11/7/17 General Election and Special Elections
Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, October 16, 2017

Deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m.

Where do I go to vote? 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing voters in your district?

Roem: Transportation, economic development, and education.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Roem: The top issue we face in the 13th district is fixing Route 28 so morning rush hour isn’t unbearable. It was awful in 1992 and it’s awful today. It’s time to change it.

My proposal calls for the NVTA reallocating the $300 million it’s set for improving the Interstate 66/Route 28 intersection so the money moves further south for other improvements — like widening 28 to six lanes just south of U.S. 29, removing stop lights where appropriate (based on what the residents tell us, not what we tell the residents) and coming up with multi-modal transportation options so people aren’t stuck having to only choose vehicles to get to work.

That $300 million will be freed up if the private conglomerate likely to install tolls on I-66 follows through on its pledge to put $300 million into the I-66/28 intersection. I oppose all tolling in Northern Virginia as it amounts to a double tax and restricts the availability for general access lanes open to everyone without the requirement of purchasing an EZ Pass.

That said, I’m also pragmatic and understand that the time to defeat toll roads is in their concept stage, so rather than relitigate with the state government, I prefer to move forward and take the next-best option, which includes taking the $300 million for improving the Route 28/I-66 intersection as agreed upon with the private conglomerate.

That means we can fix the roadway without raising taxes; it just takes political leadership to accomplish it.
I’ve also called for extending Godwin Drive to Centreville through public right-of-way easements as long as it is constructed in an environmentally sensitive way near Bull Run and does more good than harm for the residents who live near there by not lowering property values or allowing cut-through traffic through the Manassas neighborhoods between Centreville and Sudley Road.

While we can make a ton of improvements to Route 28, the road will remain clogged every work day morning if we don’t bring high-paying jobs to Prince William County, specifically in the Innovation Technology Park area of Manassas.

To do that, we need to find a cost-effective way of extending the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) westward from Broad Run (near Manassas Airport) to Innovation, which will allow the county’s Economic Development department officials to better market Innovation and will give commuters an alternative to driving to the area. That’s why I’m calling for a first-of-its-kind study, which I think should be conducted by Virginia Tech and funded at least in part by the state government, to examine best practices for rail engineering, design, construction, implementation and maintenance in Europe and Asia so we can identify inefficiencies and bring down rail costs here in Virginia.

For example, labor unions are much stronger in Europe than here yet our project costs are more expensive. We need to determine why that’s the case with a conclusive, data-driven study and implement what we learn from it.
With mass transit running to Innovation, we’ll have the ability to be more competitive in the recruiting process for defense and tech jobs that we’re currently losing to Tysons Corner, the Research Triangle in North Carolina and so many other places.

That’s why I also call for the state government to issue economic development grants and incentives to localities to eliminate their existing BPOL (business, professional occupancy license) taxes.

Prince William County recently raised its BPOL level but it still affects the sort of high-paying, defense and high-tech industry jobs that we want to recruit and retain at Innovation. Yet, Stafford County eliminated its BPOL, which puts Prince William at a competitive disadvantage.

At a time when many people criticize the state government for picking “winners and losers” through offering incentives to specific companies, offering localities the same sort of access to phase out their BPOL taxes would apply the same practice in a much more broad sense so Virginia as a whole becomes more competitive with other states and spares companies the need for tax-shopping by localities.

By bringing in more businesses, we can expand our commercial tax base so we can get closer to a 75-25 real estate tax to commercial tax split in the county instead of the roughly 85-15 split it is now. That will allow the county government to not rely so much on the residents for tax revenue, which means we’ll have more money to fund capital improvement projects at our schools and raise teacher pay so their salaries aren’t the lowest in Northern Virginia, as they are in Manassas Park (ranked 8/9 by the state government) and Prince William (ranked 9/9).

By redirecting our focus away from exclusionary and discriminatory social issues and toward the three core issues in the county, we can deliver results for our district residents and improve their quality of life. To do that, we need to be a more welcoming commonwealth, one where our residents are valued for who they are, not what they look like, where they come from, how they worship or who they love.

PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Roem: Delivering tangible results on infrastructure, economic development, and education. I’m campaigning as a practical consensus-builder whose legislative role models growing up were the late Sen. Chuck Colgan (D-29) and the late Del. Harry Parrish (R-50). You didn’t have to agree with them on every issue to respect them and acknowledge the results they delivered for their communities. They demonstrated how to wield enormous power effectively and civilly.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Roem: I bring an in-depth understanding about public policy from a decade of listening to local residents, researching and vetting facts, and presenting information as a neutral, disinterested, third-party observer. As a journalist, someone’s party affiliation meant little to me compared to the knowledge and skill they brought to the office they carried or sought. That’s why I developed the reputation among many local elected officials as the toughest interviewer they came across; not someone obsessed with “gotcha” question but as someone who made sure elected leaders and those aspiring to elected office understood in detail the policy proposals they supported.

PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well informed and understands the workings of state government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency?

Roem: In the 13th District, we have an engaged citizenry that does understand at least particular sectors of local government as well as state government. One example of that is how the citizens in Gainesville and Haymarket have spoken out about Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed transmission line to the Amazon data center, 10 years after doing the same thing regarding another power line proposal that would have run massive power towers near Silver Lake. I covered both for the newspaper.

The residents defeated the 2006 project through patience and tactical persuasion and have demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the public policy debate regarding the towers this time around too. Otherwise, as a career journalist, I know there is always room for improving how government officials communicate with the people who elect them and the reporters who cover them. That’s why I’ve called for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ombudsman to be established at the statewide level so reporters and citizens alike have someone in charge of expediting their requests for public documents, not hinder or delay them with the threat of absurd prices for delivering information.

I also support a statewide Shield Law for credentialed news reporters so neither they nor their whistle-blower sources have to face jail time for keeping the government accountable. As a delegate, I’ll hold daily press briefings and every reporter who covers Prince William County and/or the General Assembly will have my cell phone number. During the first 10 days of this campaign, I was interviewed by reporters from the Gainesville Times/Prince William Times, Inside Nova, Bristow Beat, Washington Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Blade, Metro Weekly and three media outlets based in Richmond. I will keep in constant contact both with the fourth estate, without whom our Republic crumbles, and the citizens we collectively serve.

PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?

Roem: Yes. I’m reminded of the mistakes I’ve made whenever I visit Stonewall Memory Gardens in Manassas, where most of my family is buried, and I come across the tomb of one of my late sources whose obituary story I screwed up. With stories like that, you have one chance to make it right; you don’t get the luxury of a do-over, and it’s stayed with me for years. 

In authoring more than 2,500 news stories, I’ve had to swallow my pride and issue corrections, watch council members call me out — fairly or unfairly — from behind the dais, been cussed at more times than I can count, and have had phones hung up on me by families in mourning who simply didn’t want to talk to the press during their time of grief, all of which I understand.

Away from journalism, I spent much of my 20s at the bottom of a bottle, using alcohol as both a great unifier to bring together friends and meet new friends but also to perpetuate self-destructive behavior. That included many public occasions, at bars and music venues throughout Northern Virginia, in which I drank until I was sick and bragged about how much I could drink in a toxic attempt to present a masculine persona.

While I was never addicted to alcohol in the same way as an alcoholic, I was an aggressive social drinker who also used alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with my lifelong gender dysphoria. I finally started seeing a psychologist in 2012 and presented myself with two options: either I can continue abusing alcohol and begin hormone replacement therapy, which would likely reek havoc on my liver, or I can pursue hormone replacement therapy without alcohol, start sleeping more than four hours a night and get my life together.

Between 2013 and 2015, I phased out drinking — until I stopped completely in August 2015, all while transitioning physically and mentally. Meanwhile, in 2014, I fell in love with my now-boyfriend, became a step-mom and allowed my family and gender transition to fundamentally change my life for the best. Having a family and living as my authentic self has offered me clarity and a new perspective on life, one where I can be the same person in front of everyone I meet, not feel like I need to change my presentation and persona depending on the situation. I’m finally at a place in my life where I’m comfortable with who I am and want to start conversations, not engage in arguments.

PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?

Roem: I’m focused on fixing Route 28, bringing high-paying jobs to Innovation Technology Park and raising teacher salaries so they’re not the lowest in Northern Virginia, all while working to make Virginia a more inclusive commonwealth.

I believe in celebrating our differences, not castigating people for being themselves. You won’t see me legislating against people or groups in our community for what they look like, where they come from, how they worship or who they love.

Instead, you’ll see me focused on delivering tangible results on infrastructure as I learned from years of observing Sen. Colgan, whose legislative fingerprints are all over our transportation and education infrastructure. I want to establish common ground and I understand that governing is the art of half a loaf; it’s okay to compromise and meet in the middle as long as we do the most good for the most number of people while causing as little harm as possible, both to our people and our community.

Candidate Profile

Candidate Name

Danica Roem

Contact Information



Candidate Stats

I’m running for House of Delegates 13th District (Gainesville, Manassas Park)


  • Journalist


  • Loch Lomond Elementary School – (Grades K-3) All Saints Catholic School (Grades 4-8)
    Paul VI Catholic High School (Grades 9-12; Class of 2002)
    St. Bonaventure University (Class of 2006) – I earned a B.A. in Journalism/Mass Communication

Community involvement:

  • I’m a lifelong Manassas resident, born at Prince William Hospital in 1984. After four years of public school, I attended Catholic schools for 13 years, from fourth grade through college, including five years at All Saints Catholic School in Manassas. (I was also baptized and confirmed at All Saints Catholic Church.)
  • My first job was at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium as a high school sophomore in 2000, working for $5.15 an hour during Potomac Cannons home games. The next year, I took a job as the files manager and courier of B.W. Smith & Associates, a land surveying company based in Manassas, where I worked part-time through 2004.
  • I started my journalism career writing freelance stories for the Potomac News in 2005 (while also delivering the newspaper at 2:30 a.m. in northwestern Prince William County) and came back home after graduating from college in May 2006 to start my career as a professional journalist.
  • From June 2006 through August 2015, I served as the lead general assignment reporter, sports editor and half of the full-time editorial staff for the Gainesville Times and the Prince William Times. My work appeared throughout the Virginia News Group/Times Community Newspapers chain, including the the Fauquier Times Democrat, Loudoun Times Mirror, Culpeper Times and the Fairfax Times. At the Times, I covered everything affecting quality of life and infrastructure issues in the 13th District: from transportation, economic development and education to homelessness, mental health, policing, fire & EMS crews, crime, courts, parks and recreation, power lines, Town Council, City Council, Board of County Supervisors, state government, federal government, planning, zoning, availability of playing fields for youth sports leagues, etc., all for a salary that required me to take up a second full-time job for most of my tenure in order to make ends meet. I’ve seen our local athletes raise state championship banners — including the first-ever at Battlefield High School for football and girls soccer — and the heartbreak of defeat through covering hundreds of local sports stories. Through my work, I’ve seen the best and worst of life in Prince William County, with the best including the faith-based volunteers who gave of their time, talent, income and even health to find shelter and hope for people enduring homelessness and the volunteers who loaded trucks filled with medical supplies destined for places around the world as part of the work carried out by Medical Missionaries. As a local reporter, my job sadly also called for documenting misery within our community countless times, from the tragedy of the young and pure of heart dying long before their time to witnessing a confessed murderer expire in the electric chair. In community journalism, you witness the gamut of joy and sorrow, life and death.
  • For four out of five years from 2009-2014, I worked two full-time jobs, with jobs at The Hotline (part of the National Journal Group) in Washington, D.C. and Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit organization in Arlington, all while also owning two LLCs.
  • After more than nine years of working for the Times, I served as the news editor of the Montgomery County Sentinel in Maryland from August 2015 through the end of 2016, which allowed me to broaden my knowledge about the regional infrastructure issues facing the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, specifically regarding transportation and water systems. I enter this race with a sensibility of someone who has spent the last 10.5 years as a neutral, disinterested, third-party observer responsible for vetting information and reporting facts through researching, listening, questioning, listening more, writing, editing and, finally, publishing. If the voters of the 13th District hire me, I intend to take the same skill set with me to Richmond.

Political affiliation:

  • Democrat