Virginia Democrat Danica Roem launched a TV ad campaign Thursday that's meant to overwhelm longtime Republican incumbent Del. Robert G. Marshall with media exposure not normally seen in a local state election.
In the ad, which is airing on CNN and a few other cable channels with audiences in the 13th District, Roem stakes a claim in a fight against plans by Dominion Energy to run power lines through the Haymarket area — a battle that Marshall has helped lead.
"When Dominion wouldn't tell us who owned the Haymarket data center, I didn't stop until the truth came out," Roem says in the ad, which points viewers to a 2014 article Roem wrote for the Gainesville Times, where she worked as a reporter. That story first revealed that the power line project is linked to a computer data center owned by a subsidiary of Amazon.
The ad is the first of several planned by Roem's campaign to air on TV through the November election, revealing the spending power she has accrued in her bid to become the first openly transgender person to win elected office in Virginia. Roem's campaign said the total cost of the first ad buy was not finalized, but the candidate said more than $100,000 worth of air time had been reserved.
Roem's candidacy has drawn national attention — and donors — because she has a chance to make Virginia electoral history.
Another ad, which has been posted on YouTube but has not yet aired on television, highlights Roem's transgender status, in what she said was meant as a positive message for transgender teens. It was was produced in reaction to Marshall's insistence on referring to her as a male.
So far, Roem has been able to control a large part of the narrative in her race with Marshall by outraising the 13-term incumbent 5 to 1, pulling in nearly $374,000.
Marshall, who has refused to debate Roem, has nonetheless balked at her message, calling the Democrat disingenuous and pointing out that most of Roem's money has come from outside Virginia, mainly from LGBT groups.
Roem's new ad, titled "Beat," attacks one of Marshall's strengths with voters in the Haymarket and Gainesville area, where Dominion plans to construct a 5.1-mile power line route near a computer data center owned by a subsidiary of Amazon, whose founder and chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.
Marshall has played a leading role in that fight, introducing legislation in recent years that either sought to restrict where utility companies can build power lines or where data centers can be constructed. None of those bills have gone anywhere, however.
Roem has mostly stayed out of that fight as a candidate. But she donated $1,000 from her campaign to the Coalition to Protect Prince William County to help in that group's legal challenge of the power line project.
Marshall said the TV ad gives the false impression that Roem has done more on the issue, saying she has not attended any meetings about the power lines as an activist or candidate.
"For Danica to claim some affinity or interest or caring at all about this issue is specious," Marshall said. "Danica wants to claim this personal sweat equity in the process, and there is none."
Roem said the main purpose of the "Beat" ad is to show voters that she is intimately familiar with the area's problems after working for more than nine years as a local reporter, writing what she said are more than 2,500 articles over that time.
"Now, I'm running for delegate to bring a reporter's eye to Richmond," Roem said in the ad.