Danica Roem, a three-term Virginia lawmaker and a former journalist, on Tuesday became the first openly transgender person to be elected to a State Senate seat in the South, winning a competitive race that helped Democrats take control of the Virginia legislature.
Her victory in the 30th District, in heavily populated Northern Virginia, was heralded by L.G.B.T.Q. groups, which emphasized that she had been a target of sustained anti-transgender rhetoric during the campaign.
In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Roem, a Democrat, said that her opponents went out of their way to attack her identity, through a barrage of ads and negative mailers.
“To them, trans was scary,” she said.
Ms. Roem, 39, edged out Bill Woolf III, a Republican, by fewer than 2,000 votes, giving her just under 52 percent support in a race that drew widespread attention, according to The Associated Press.
Mr. Woolf, a former police detective, had trumpeted his endorsement from Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia. The governor, a staunch conservative with national ambitions, has sought to bar transgender girls from competing in girls’ athletics.
Since she was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2017, something no other transgender person had done in Virginia history, Ms. Roem said that her political opponents spent millions highlighting her identity. In the Senate race, she said, she had been targeted by 30 negative mailers.
“They went all-in on transphobia, and they lost,” she said.
Ms. Roem attributed her electoral success to her focus on helping constituents with everyday quality of life issues that included transportation, the environment and universal free meals for children.
Her victory contributed to a big night for Democrats and L.G.B.T.Q. candidates in Virginia, where Republicans, led by Mr. Youngkin, tried to flip the State Senate to give them a monopoly in state government.
Instead, Republicans lost both chambers of the legislature, as voters rejected the blueprint Mr. Youngkin set out, which included restrictions on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and policies affecting transgender people.
The LGBTQ+ Victory Fund said that Ms. Roem’s win was part of a “rainbow wave” nationally and noted that all nine candidates that it had backed in Virginia had been elected.
“Danica faced an unprecedented deluge of anti-trans hate on the campaign trail, but she was not fazed nor distracted,” Annise Parker, the group’s president, said in a statement.
She added: “Her win tonight will make national headlines and serves as a deafening rebuke to bigots who continue to try and silence the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community and trans people in particular.”