Delegate turns hate group’s protest into fundraiser, collects $26K

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment cheer Del. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, as she enters the Capitol on the first day of the 2019 General Assembly session. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

From The Bulletin, the Mercury’s blog, where we post quick hits on the news of the day, odds and ends and commentary.

When the Westboro Baptist Church announced earlier this month they were coming to the capitol to protest, they specifically targeted Del. Danica Roem, Virginia’s first and only openly transgender state representative.

Roem says at first she ignored the Kansas-based group, which has made a name for itself by sending members around the country to wave offensive signs at high profile events, including funerals for U.S. service members. (The Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.”)

But a week later on Friday, when the planned protest made news, she said she decided to put out a statement: “My response … and please use this quote in its entirety as I put the amount of thought the situation warrants into it: ‘Meh.’ Roem went on to add: “Oh, and donate money to my re-election campaign. They’ll hate that.'”

Roem says it worked, and that in 24 hours she raised about $16,000 from 392 people.

“I set out to make the best out of a bad situation by doing what a good candidate for office should do,” she said in an email. “Flip the script on something negative by raising money off of the response without amplifying the original negativity and driving a unifying message about love conquering hate.”

Update: As of Tuesday morning, Roem says she’s raised more than $26,000 and donations are still rolling in.