Ayala, Sears in a close race for the state’s second highest post | Headlines
Prince William County’s Democrat Hala Ayala and Republican Winsome Sears were in a close race for Virginia’s first female lieutenant governor as the election results began Tuesday.
With 1,455 of the state’s 2,855 counties, Sears led Ayala by 56% to 42%, or about 199,000 votes. However, many of the early returnees were from rural areas that are more traditionally Republican, and only a small percentage of the early votes were reported nationwide.
Not only will the winner replace Mary Sue Terry (Attorney General 1986-1994) as the highest elected woman in state history, but she will also be the first minority woman to be elected to national office. Sears is black while Ayala is Afro-Latina.
The lieutenant governor of Virginia ranks first in succession to the governor and serves as president of the state Senate, chairing meetings and casting the casting vote in the event of a tie. This power has been used extensively in recent years as the Democrats only have a two-seat majority until 2024.
Unlike the supreme office of the state, lieutenant governors can serve consecutive four-year terms. The current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, however, did not seek re-election, but unsuccessfully to nominate the Democrats for governor.
Although the race usually attracts less attention than others, it has recently been used as a stepping stone to governorship, with nine lieutenant governors later being elected to the highest office of the state. The winner of Tuesday’s race is likely to be an early favorite for her party’s nod to run for governor in 2025.
Only three Republicans have held office since 1886, most recently Bill Bolling from 2006 to 2014.
Ayala was elected to the House of Representatives from Woodbridge’s 51st Ward in 2017 and was re-elected in 2019. She is the vice-chair of the House’s Finance, Labor, and Commerce, and Communications, Technology, and Innovation Committees.
Sears served one term in the House of Representatives after surprisingly beating 20-year-old incumbent Del. Billy Robinson in the 90th district, which includes the Norfolk region, had ousted.
In 2004 she unsuccessfully challenged longtime US MP Robert Scott for his seat in Congress. Sears also ran a write-in campaign in the 2018 US Senate election as an alternative to Prince William’s former chairman, Corey Stewart.
If Ayala wins, she will only be Prince William’s second person elected to national office. William Grayson, who was born in what is now the Woodbridge area, was elected one of the first two U.S. Senators from Virginia in 1789, according to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union. Grayson died a year later, the first incumbent Congressman to die in office.
Ayala was way ahead in fundraising with donations of more than $ 6.4 million as of Oct.21. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Sears reported $ 2.5 million over the same period.
Ayala has supported Medicaid’s continued funding and expansion. She advocates investment in labor training, 12 weeks of paid family and sick leave and an increase in the state minimum wage.
Ayala’s campaign website calls for increased investment in public transport and infrastructure, expanded broadband access, and the state’s switch to solar and wind power. Ayala also supports women’s rights to abortion and expanded access to birth control and contraception.
Sears, a Winchester businesswoman, supports the designation of the state as a state entitled to work, which means that union membership cannot be a condition of employment.
She called for the state grocery sales tax to be abolished, a tax rebate of $ 600 for joint applicants and $ 300 for individuals, and electoral approval for local property tax increases. She supports entrepreneurship investments for Black Virginians and a large investment in historically black colleges and universities.
Sears is also backing a law enforcement pay raise, which removes all taxes on the first $ 40,000 of military veterans’ retirement benefits and expands veteran care centers across the state.
Election Guide: The Race of the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
Hala Ayala, candidate for lieutenant governor, is casting her early vote in Woodbridge