Ayala or Sears: Both would make history in Virginia election
FALLSCHURCH, Va. (AP). — Two women running for lieutenant governor in Virginia next month love to boast about their unusual political backgrounds. One thing is certain: Whoever wins, will make history.
Both candidates would be the first women and first men of color to hold a position that serves as a launch pad for the governor’s mansion. Half of the 10 lieutenant governors in the past went on to become governor.
The two candidates will be competing for votes the day before. Democrat Terry McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin for the governor’s seat, which is the most prominent on the ticket.
Winsome Sears is a Republican who was a Marine and immigrated from Jamaica to the United States as a child. She won the lieutenant governor’s election on the basis of the excitement generated by a campaign photograph showing her with a military rifle.
Hala Ayala is a Democrat who claims to have African, Hispanic and Lebanese ancestry. She often refers to her “lived experiences” as a single mother, who nearly died during childbirth.
Sears was a temporary delegate to the General Assembly for parts of Hampton roads, and had an brief stint in electoral politics 20 years back. After a two-decade-long absence, she returned to politics when she was elected national chairperson of Black Americans to Re-Elect Donald Trump.
Ayala was, however, launched into public office through her organizing role in resisting President Donald Trump’s induction in 2017..
Ayala was elected to the House in November 2017. She quickly rose through the Democratic ranks and became chief deputy whip. This position helped to shepherd a number of bills into law after Democrats gained control of the legislature in 2020,. These included the abolishment of the death penalty and legalization of marijuana.
Sears was the winner of the nomination, beating five other candidates including two former Del. Tim Hugo, Fairfax County and Virginia Beach Del. Glenn Davis — who have been far more active in recent GOP politics.
Ayala, in an interview, emphasized the role the lieutenant governor plays as a tie-breaking vote in the state Senate, where Democrats currently hold just a 21-19 advantage.
When it comes to abortion rights, the lieutenant governor’s post is even more important, she said, because the chamber is essentially divided 20-20 on abortion issues — Democratic Sen. Joe Morrissey has voted against some legislation that would have expanded abortion rights in the state.
Ayala pointed out that abortion rights could be a major issue in state legislatures throughout the country if the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court reduces abortion protections.
“I act as a firewall to ensure that reproductive health care is available and empower individuals to make decisions about their bodies.” she stated.
When asked if she believes that abortion rights should be expanded, she stated that she supports Roe v. Wade being enshrined in the state Constitution. She declined to answer if she would vote to remove Virginia’s requirement that minors obtain parental consent in order to have an abortion.
Sears campaign declined to allow her interview and instead requested a list with written questions. Ayala also criticized her for refusing to answer questions regarding whether she received the coronavirus vaccination.
Ayala supported vaccine mandates for state workers as well as mask mandates in schools. This was according to her campaign.
During the primary, Sears mocked mask mandates set by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam posted a video where she pulled a mask from a cardboard cutout and dumped it in the sand with the Virginia Beach boardwalk as the background.
Sears is the most unusual candidate on the state ballot this year. She speaks in a stream-of-consciousness style and loves to tell the story of her first campaign for office, when someone superimposed her face onto a pornographic photo.
“I look good!” she jokes with the audience.
But this story is emblematic of the difficulties she faced as a Black Republican taking on an establishment that expects Blacks vote Democratic.
” The other side wants to make us look bad and that’s not what we should do,” she said to a rural Chesterfield County crowd earlier in the month. “It’s time for them find another victim. … Yes, we recognize that there are issues, but we can solve them While she was in the legislature she received top ratings from anti-abortion as well as gun-rights groups. She praised that record during her successful primary campaign. However, she has updated her website for the general election to remove these references.
Ayala believes Sears is too extreme. Ayala used the same picture of Sears, posing with the rifle that won her victory in the primary to advertise her.
” My opponent has proven she’s not an leader,” Ayala stated. “If somebody shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Election Day is Nov. 2.