State Watch

Danica Roem, Joanna McClinton among nominees for EMILYs List rising star award

Virginia Del. Danica Roem (D) speaks during a canvass launch event for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Manassas, Va., on Sunday, October 31, 2021.
Greg Nash

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D) and Speaker of the Pennsylvania House Joanna McClinton (D) are among those nominated for this year’s Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award, an honor EMILYs List presents to women serving in local office.

The nominees for the annual award from EMILYs List — which works to elect Democratic, pro-choice women in office — were first shared with The Hill. The organization will formally announce the names on Tuesday, then the public can vote on a winner.

Nevada state Rep. Shea Backus (D), California state Rep. Sabrina Cervantes (D), Florida state Rep. and House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D) and Georgia state Rep. Michelle Au (D) were also nominated for the award.

“Each legislator in our inspiring and diverse set of nominees this year has dedicated their careers in office to protecting our rights to reproductive health care and advocating for bills that will increase opportunities for marginalized communities, ensure inclusivity in their states, and make a measurable impact on the local level for women and working families everywhere,” EMILYs List President Laphonza Butler said in a statement.

EMILYs List awards the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award annually to an “extraordinary woman” serving in local or state office who shows “the sort of commitment to community, dedication to women and families, and determination and civility that have been the highlights of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ career.” Previous recipients include former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, former Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley (D) and Texas Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Roem made history in 2017 when she became the first openly transgender person to win an election and be seated in a state legislature. She formerly worked as a journalist before running for office in 2017.

McClinton in February became the first woman to be elected Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, assuming the role after her predecessor stepped down. She is also just the second Black individual to hold the title. McClinton, first elected in 2015,  was previously a public defender.

Backus was first elected to the Nevada Assembly in 2018, becoming the first Native American woman to serve in the Silver State’s legislature. Cervantes, who has served in the California state Assembly since 2016, holds the title of the first Latina millennial elected to the Golden State’s assembly. According to EMILYs List, 39 of her bills have been enacted, including ones pertaining to maternal health care access and safeguards for sexual assault victims.

Driskell made history last year, becoming the first Black woman to serve as minority leader in the Florida House, and Au is the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Georgia Senate.

This year’s award marks the first since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last summer, leading to action on abortion on the state level.

“Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, we have seen an unprecedented and dangerous increase in states banning and restricting abortion, and it has never been more important for pro-choice champions to raise their voices in state legislatures and stand up against violent rhetoric and attacks on our freedom,” Butler wrote in a statement.

Tags Ayanna Pressley Danica Roem Gabrielle Giffords Laphonza Butler Lina Hidalgo Stacey Abrams

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