Hala Ayala, Winsome Sears face off in race to be lieutenant governor, make history – Virginian-Pilot

hala-ayala,-winsome-sears-face-off-in-race-to-be-lieutenant-governor,-make-history-–-virginian-pilot

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If Virginia tradition holds on Election Day, the winner of this election ― one candidate a member of the House of Delegates, the other a former member — will be auditioning for governor four or eight years down the pike.

Regardless of who wins or their future political aspirations, either will make history as the first woman as well as the first woman of color to hold the office.

The race for lieutenant governor pits Del. Hala Ayala, D-Prince William, against Republican Winsome Sears, who represented Norfolk’s 90th House district for one term, in the 2002-03 General Assembly session.

The job is to preside over the state Senate, in which neither have served, and to be next in line if the governor dies or is incapacitated. That’s never happened since the office was created in 1852. Lieutenant governors can break tie votes on most bills, but not on the state budget. They do not have the power to introduce legislation.

But 14 of the 17 lieutenant governors who served since World War II went on to run for governor. Two of the others died in office, the third ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.

Ayala said she is running because she wants to serve and uplift others.

“Growing up, my family struggled to make ends meet. I lost my father to gun violence at a young age and my family stood in food lines. When I had my son, I worked in a gas station without any safety net, but Medicaid saved our lives. I know exactly how thin the line can be between struggle and success, she said.

Worries about the state’s economic direction inspired Sears to run

“Being a long-time resident of Virginia, former public servant, and business owner, I decided to run for Lt. Governor out of my deep concern for our children not receiving a proper education, rising costs for the middle class and burdensome tax increases on businesses. These factors have stifled economic growth and prosperity in our state,” she said.

The two have different top priorities.

“I’m ready to hit the ground running day one. As Lieutenant Governor, my priorities will be to further expand Medicaid, invest in our schools, students, and teachers, and come back stronger from COVID-19 by growing our economy,” Ayala said.

“If elected, my top three legislative priorities are creating good paying jobs, cutting costs for families, and opening and strengthening schools,” Sears said, adding that she would eliminate the sales tax on groceries.

For both, life experience is what they feel qualifies them for the office.

“It has been an honor to serve as chief deputy whip in the House of Delegates to deliver on promises like expanding Medicaid, passing the Virginia Clean Economy Act, and keeping Virginia #1 for business,” Ayala said. “I am the only candidate in this race with both the lived and legislative leadership experience necessary to continue advancing Virginia’s priorities.”

“First, immigrating from Jamaica, I came to America for the American Dream and learned that doors could open to achieve dreams with a good education, hard work and prayer. Secondly, Virginia has the highest concentration of military in our nation, and like so many men and women who have worn the uniform, I served in the Marine Corps. Finally, I have also held public office, and I understand the challenges associated with breaking through partisan gridlock,” said Sears.

Dave Ress, 757-247-4535, [email protected]

Occupation: House of Delegates member, Cyber Security Compliance Team Lead

Education: University of Phoenix Associate’s Degree

Previous elected office: Member, House of Delegates since 2018

Family: Single mother of two children in their 20s

Occupation: Business Owner

Education: Regent University, MA Organizational Leadership; Old Dominion University, BA English/Journalism, Minor: Economics; Tidewater Community College, AA Liberal Arts

Previous elected office: Member House of Delegates 2002-2003

Family: Married, 3 adult children

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