Virginia prepares to elect first woman of color for lieutenant governor

As Washington turns its attention to the Virginia gubernatorial election next week, Lt. Governor candidates Hala Ayala (D) and Winsome Sears (R) seek to make history as the first women to hold office in the Commonwealth.

Ayala and Sears would also become the first Afro-Latino and black women, respectively, to occupy the second most powerful position in the former confederation capital.

While much of the national media attention has focused on the tightening of polls among gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin, polls between Ayala and Sears have also been tight.

A Washington Post / Schar School poll released Friday showed Ayala leading Sears among likely voters 50 to 46 percent, but within the poll’s four-point margin of error.

Whoever wins the outcome of the lieutenant governor’s race is likely to have an impact on policymaking in Virginia. Current Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax (D) has cast 52 tiebreaker votes in his role as chairman of the legislative body.

But their historic nominations is where most of the Ayala and Sears similarities end. Both women are embodying their respective party platforms as the parties prepare to make a play for Virginia ahead of Tuesday’s state elections, in what is widely seen as a landmark for the 2022 midterm elections.

Ayala has echoed the message from Virginia Democrats about the need to defend their progress in the Old Domain, pointing to the need to defend abortion rights, gun control and the expansion of Medicaid. The Democratic candidate was first elected to public office in 2017 when she became one of nine women to win her House of Delegates elections that year.

“We were going to be the firewall and that’s what we did: Medicaid expansion, teacher salary increases, work for working families, minimum wage increase,” Ayala told The Hill while taking a day break from campaign in Newport News, Virginia. ., last month. “We had an agenda.”

Ayala, who previously worked as a cybersecurity analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, decided to run for the House of Delegates after organizing the first Women’s March in 2017.

“It hurt me a lot to see someone like him get elected to a position,” Ayala said, referring to the former President TrumpTrump’s lawyer blamed Pence for causing the Capitol attack: Biden administration report announces easing of some tariffs on EU steel, COP26 aluminum takes on climate change at dangerous time MORE. “So I picked up my slippers and clipboard, we organized for Virginia.”

But the meeting at the first Women’s March wasn’t enough for Ayala, who later decided to quit her job and run for public office with $ 68 in her bank account and no medical attention.

The 2021 campaign represents something of a full circle for Ayala, who credits the former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Citations Are A Real Concern For Lawmakers Facing The Jan.6 Questions Don’t Let China Distract Us From Russia Biden Appoints Sara Minkara As US Special Adviser On International Rights Of Persons With Disabilities MOREThe 2008 presidential bid to inspire her to get involved in politics.

At a rally with the former president and the Virginia Democratic nominee earlier this month, Ayala noted that she would not be standing on stage as a candidate for lieutenant governor were it not for Obama’s campaign slogan “yes, we can.” .

When asked what sparked his initial interest in politics, Sears credits his Jamaican grandmother.

“She demanded that her political leaders represent her and represent her well,” Sears told The Hill by phone earlier this month. “I saw her make those demands.”

Like Youngkin, Sears, who served as vice president of the Virginia Board of Education, has made education a centerpiece of her campaign. Youngkin and Sears have specifically pushed the issues of school choice and parental rights on school boards.

Sears often invokes his own father, who said he was “lifted” out of poverty through education.

“My father came to the United States with a. J $ 1.75, ”he said. “What did he do? He took whatever job he could find, paid for school, started his American dream and is now comfortably retired.”

Sears, who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica as a child, served as an electrician in the United States Marine Corps. She told The Hill that she initially wanted to become a campaign manager in a political campaign. However, in 2001 he defeated former Democratic incumbent Del. William Robinson in Virginia’s 90th district.

That same election, Sears made history as the first black Republican woman, the first naturalized citizen delegate, and the first female veteran to serve in the House of Delegates. Twenty years later, he could make history again, but he says he doesn’t care.

“Yes, it’s history, but that’s what you know, that’s one day, it’s gone,” he said. “What are you going to do after being chosen? That is what we want to know. And what I want is for the black kids, the Latino kids, the Asian kids, the white kids, whoever, to see me and say ‘Winsome is there’. If she can do it, I can do it, ‘because I hope they don’t think I did something special to get there.

Sears caused a sensation in September after it laid off most of its campaign staff 55 days before Election Day. He explained his decision to The Hill, arguing that leaders have to make “bold” and “difficult” decisions.

“I just decided that we are at a certain point in our campaign, certain decisions have to be made,” he said, before joking that “it must be a slow news day.”

Unlike the gubernatorial and attorney general candidates, Sears and Ayala have not gone head-to-head on the debate stage. However, debates over vaccine mandates and abortion rights, in particular, have been sparked in media coverage of the race.

In September, Sears told Newsmax it would support abortion legislation amid the fallout from a Texas law prohibiting abortion at six weeks of pregnancy.

“Well, I can tell you that that would be me, that I would support [it]”He told the conservative network.

His campaign quickly pushed back the comments, saying Sears recognized that the legislation could never get the votes to pass through the state’s General Assembly.

But Ayala seized the opportunity to hit Sears, arguing that Sears would not protect fundamental rights as governor.

Vaccine mandates have also proven to be a point of contention in the race, with Ayala and his Democratic allies backing them and Sears and Republicans rejecting them.

Sears’ COVID-19 vaccination status came into question as a result of a CNN interview earlier this month when it declined to say whether it had received the vaccine.

“My life is very public. That’s the way it is. But I want to keep certain things close,” Sears told the network, adding that once people ask about vaccination statuses, it becomes a “slippery slope.”

“What are we going to ask for now if we have HIV? What more are we going to ask for?” she asked.

Ayala immediately went on the offensive, saying she hopes Sears “gets the vaccine if it hasn’t already.”

“We are not going to stand by and allow it to continue,” Ayala said. “So we have to get vaccinated. We definitely have to follow the CDC’s guidance. And I don’t think this has to do with any policy. It’s about public health and safety.”

Later, Sears tweeted encouraging people to get vaccinated, but said that no one should be forced to get vaccinated. Sears hit Ayala and the media on the same thread, saying that the media was trying to “get the water out of the failed McAuliffe-Ayala ticket and it won’t work.”

However, both candidates say they believe they will likely be seen as a figure to be reckoned with by young people seeking to get involved in politics if elected in November.

“It’s about, again, leading the way for the next generation of leaders. It’s about planting those seeds and those good policies, ”Ayala said. “Have a woman on the ticket? Hell yeah.”

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