Black woman to face Pro-Trump Jamaican trailblazer in Virginia Lt governor race
Whether a Democrat or Republican wins history will be created in November electionsFriday, June 11, 2021
The Democratic Party has selected a black woman to face Jamaican-born Winsome Sears, a fiercely pro-Trump backer and the first black woman to get the Republican nod to run for lieutenant governor of Virginia.
It means that whether the Democratic or the Republican wins in next November's elections, political history will be created as a black woman will be Lt governor, the second highest office, for the first time in America's oldest democratic state.
On Tuesday this week, Hala S Ayala, representing Prince William County, also became the first black woman to win the Democratic primary to face off with Norfolk County representative Sears, who was selected a month ago by the GOP.
Both women had to fend off an equal number of candidates in their party — five — to grab the nomination after an expensive campaign which attracted national press coverage and high-profile politicians on both sides.
Winsome Earle Sears, 57, emigrated from Jamaica at six and grew up in the Bronx, New York. She took the scalps of two prominent state legislators on the way to her history-making win, The Associated Press said.
Ayala, an Afro-Latina, Lebanese and Irish woman who works as a cybersecurity specialist with the Homeland Security Department, harshly criticised Sears for her strong support of Donald Trump, the highly polarising former president.
Sears has been national chairman of black Republicans for re-election of Trump, and during her nomination campaign, criticised the Democrats who run state government for restrictions on churches and “mom and pop” businesses during COVID-19, describing herself as “unapologetically pro-life”.
In her campaign, Sears also emphasised “ballot box integrity”, saying that she wants to bar third parties from turning in ballots for others and wants Virginia to go back to requiring a photo ID at the polls, legislative action Trump has advocated.
She said she was not suggesting that such measures would have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, but asserted that they would boost voter confidence. Sears notably worked hard in that election to win black voters for Trump.
Sears, also the first black Republican woman to be elected to Virginia's General Assembly, argued that many people of colour share her views on protecting gun owners' rights, allowing public funds to be used for private or charter school vouchers, and keeping instruction about the country's struggles with racism out of the classroom.
Ayala, who campaigned on an agenda of affordable health care, jobs and education, in a statement the day after her victory linked the death of her Salvadoran father by gun violence to her position on gun safety, and took aim at Sears.
“Virginia families simply cannot afford to have an anti-progress, pro-Trump lieutenant governor,” Ayala said. “It's no surprise that Republican insiders nominated a right-wing extremist like Winsome Sears.
“The Republican Party of Virgi nia is out of touch with the needs of regular Virginians, and they continue to elevate conspiracy theorists and Trump extremists like Winsome Sears,” she charged.
Hitting back, Sears called Ayala “a radical leftist” who can't be trusted.
The newspaper said that political analysts believed Ayala's background would help neutralise whatever appeal the Jamaican-born Sears will have among suburban swing voters, but that the Republican nominee has a chance to become the first immigrant to serve as lieutenant governor.
November's result will put Virginia in rare company among the rest of the nation, where just six black women, three Latinas and three Asian Pacific Islander women have been elected as lieutenant governor, according to The Washington Post newspaper.
A win for Sears would put the former marine pilot and owner and operator of a plumbing, electrical and appliance repair business next to the Virginia governor, as would Ayala. Seven of the state's last 14 governors previously served as lieutenant governor.
But Ayala is given the edge over Sears because Virginia is described as blue, with Democrats winning the former Republican stronghold since 2004. No Republican has won a state-wide election there since 2009, and President Joseph Biden won last November's polls by double-digits.
Aside from being the first black woman to run for the post, Sears has other impressive firsts, such as: the first Republican to represent her majority black legislative district since 1865; first and only black Republican woman, the first female veteran and the first immigrant elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.
She ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2004, but served on the Virginia Board of Education and was appointed to the US Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans by then-President George W Bush, before appearing to end her political career.
“Now, today, as the first Republican since 1865 to represent a majority black district, I am honoured to accept the nomination to be lieutenant governor… The Republican Party and the Virginia GOP are the Big Tent Party, and it's time our party's base reflected our collective Virginia values,” she said after her victory.
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