Longtime Virginia state Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), facing a well-financed challenge by Democrat Danica Roem, has released a campaign ad that highlights Roem's transgender identity and uses old video of her band to accuse her of "lewd" and "shocking" behavior.
The ad, which was posted on Facebook, is titled "Bad Judgement ." It says Roem, a former newspaper reporter, "has no record of public service but does have a record of bad judgment. From a shocking bathroom video to lewd behavior during interviews . . . Danica is not interested in our future. Danica is interested in Danica's future."
While it's not the first attack ad to target Roem, the video is the first attack from Marshall. It includes a snippet from what Roem said was a five-year-old video made by her heavy-metal band, Cab Ride Home, before she began her physical gender transition.
The snippet shows an unidentified man leaving a bathroom stall, which in the full music video is part of a scene that is suggestive of people having oral sex. Although that context is not clear in Marshall's campaign ad, John Findlay, the executive director of the Virginia Republican Party, criticized Roem on Wednesday "for being featured in a video where it is clearly implied she performed group oral sex in a public restroom."
"That behavior is shocking and her appearance in the video in that role is the definition of bad judgement on Danica's part," Findlay said in an email.
Roem strongly disagreed: "This is a comedy video nobody is going to take seriously, in the same way we don't take seriously a 'spit take' on 'The Daily Show,' " she said, adding: "For them to accuse me of lewd behavior is the height of hypocrisy. . . . This is manufactured outrage."
Marshall's ad also accuses Roem of "promoting transgender education in public school for children as young as 5 years old." Roem does not include such a position in her campaign platform or her public appearances. When pressed on the topic on a radio talk show last month, she said that she would support teaching about gender identity issues in kindergarten if it was done in an age-appropriate manner.
"We have 13 days left. . . . That's his message he's going with? Character assassination instead of a debate on public policy?" Roem asked. "He's spent his career trying to restrict women's rights, including his support for government-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds."
Dan Dodds, Marshall's campaign manager, said this is the campaign's "first educational ad" on Roem. It will air on cable television in Virginia's 13th District starting Thursday or Friday.
"I wouldn't call it a personal attack," Dodds said, adding, "This is stuff that Danica has posted publicly and celebrated publicly."
Marshall has refused to debate Roem or appear at campaign forums with her. A conservative who has sponsored legislation that would regulate which bathrooms transgender people can use, he also refuses to use female pronouns when referring to Roem.
In June, he told The Washington Post: "When I do campaign fliers, I will put a contrast between myself and my opponent. I don't get personal or whatever. So, we'll just find out."
Roem's current ad, airing on cable channels in the 13th District, challenges Marshall's vote against expanding Medicaid for Virginians and opposing the Affordable Care Act. It follows an ad that she issued earlier this month that focused on their differences over a plan by Dominion Energy to run power lines through the Haymarket area.
The contest is attracting national attention because if Roem is elected, she would be Virginia's first openly transgender elected official. She has raised $498,527 in the race, while Marshall has raised $183,861, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.