This Tuesday, Virginia is in the national spotlight as it conducts its gubernatorial election. However, whatever the outcome, the commonwealth will have its first woman of color as lieutenant governor.
One of the two candidates for lieutenant governor, Hala Ayala (Democrat) and Winsome Sears (Republican), will make history as the first woman to hold the office.
As The Hill explained, Ayala and Sears would also become the first Afro-Latina and black woman to hold the second most powerful office in the former Confederate capital.
A Washington Post/Schar School poll released Friday showed Ayala ahead of Sears among likely voters 50 percent to 46 percent but within the poll’s four-point margin of error.
Even as media attention has focused on the tight polls between gubernatorial candidates Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin, the candidacies of Ayala and Sears will change the story.
While both candidates come from opposite parties, their races will set the tone for the 2022 midterm elections.
If she wins, Ayala would become Virginia’s first female and Afro-Latina lieutenant governor.
A native of Alexandria, Ayala is a cybersecurity and U.S. policy specialist. After graduating from the University of Phoenix with a degree in psychology, the candidate began her career at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a cybersecurity specialist. The daughter of an immigrant father from El Salvador and an Irish and Lebanese mother, Ayala represents the true diversity of the country.
Her first steps in politics were spurred by the documentary Miss Representation, which led her to volunteer on Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
But it was Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House that would mark a turning point in her life. Ayala was an organizer of the Women’s March against Donald Trump in 2017, and that same year she ran for the Virginia House of Delegates for the 51st district, which covers much of Prince William County.
In June 2017, Ayala won the Democratic nomination for Virginia’s 51st House of Delegates district, defeating Ken Boddye in the primary election. In the general election, Ayala defeated four-term Republican incumbent Richard L. Anderson.
Along with Kelly Fowler and Elizabeth Guzman, Hala Ayala was part of the first cohort of Hispanic women elected to the state House.
As The Hill continued, Ayala has echoed the message of Virginia Democrats on the need to defend their progress in the Old Dominion, pointing to the need to maintain abortion rights, gun control, and Medicaid expansion.
For her part, Sears immigrated to the United States from Jamaica as a child. He served as an electrician in the U.S. Marine Corps, and in 2001 he defeated veteran Democrat Del. William Robinson in Virginia’s 90th district.
In that same election, Sears made history as the first black Republican woman, the first naturalized citizen delegate, and the first woman veteran to serve in the House of Delegates. Twenty years later, she could make history again, but she says that doesn’t matter to her.
“Yes, it’s history, but that’s you know, that’s one day, it’s gone,” she told The Hill. “What are you going to do after you’re elected? That’s what we want to know. And what I want is for Black children, Latino children, Asian children, white children, whoever, to see me and say ‘Winsome is there. If she can do it, I can do it,’ because I hope that they will not think I did something special to get there.”