The race to be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor: Ayala, Sears present opposing views as both seek to make history

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This photo combo shows from left, shows Virginia Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Hala Ayala and Virginia Republican Lt. Governor candidate Winsome Sears on Sept. 1, 2021 in McLean, Va. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Democrat Hala Ayala and Republican Winsome Sears are vying to be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor, a part-time post with a vital role in the commonwealth.

The candidates have outlined vastly different campaign agendas, making where they stand on issues clear and providing an idea of where they may land on tie-breaking votes in the Virginia Senate.

The official duties of Virginia’s lieutenant governor are to preside over the state Senate as the president of the 40-member chamber and to succeed the governor if they were to leave office before their term is over. The lieutenant governor casts tie-breaking votes when state senators are split on a measure and can make rulings on disputes between lawmakers.

The job is mainly an administrative role, but one seen as a springboard to the Executive Mansion.

Gov. Ralph Northam and two former Virginia governors, Sen Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Douglas Wilder, all served as lieutenant governor before taking the commonwealth’s top elected office.

This year’s winner will make history as the first woman of color to hold statewide office in Virginia and the first woman to serve as the commonwealth’s lieutenant governor.

Hala Ayala

Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Hala Ayala spoke before former President Barack Obama took the stage with Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at Virginia Commonwealth University on Oct. 22, 2021. (Photo: Tyler Thrasher/WRIC)

Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William), a cybersecurity specialist at the Department of Homeland Security, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017.

Ayala, chief deputy whip in the Virginia House, backs expanding Pre-K, funding for school infrastructure and co-patroned legislation to provide free community college to students pursuing jobs in high-demand fields. She has also called for more gun-control measures, including a ban on “ghost guns” and more restrictions for convicted domestic abusers.

On the campaign trail, Ayala has touted her work on bills to legalize marijuana, abolish the death penalty and expunge non-violent marijuana charges. A member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Ayala worked to help expand Medicaid in the commonwealth and believes access should be expanded even further.

Ayala has raised over $6 million this election cycle, dwarfing the more than $2.5 million brought in by Sears during her own run.

If she loses against Sears, Ayala will not return to the Virginia House as she did not run for re-election.

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Winsome Sears

Virginia Republican Lt. Governor candidate Winsome Sears addresses the Virginia FREE Leadership Luncheon in McLean, Va., Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Winsome Sears, the first Black Republican woman to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly, represented Norfolk in the House of Delegates from 2002 to 2004.

Sears has laid out several campaign proposals on her website, many of which are identical to the ideas Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor, has pitched: eliminating the grocery tax, providing a one-time tax rebate, firing the entire state parole board. While her support for Youngkin’s plans isn’t surprising, it does show how aligned Sears is with the gubernatorial candidate.

The GOP lieutenant governor candidate also aims to push for a Black Virginians advisory cabinet to the governor if elected and has called for a once-in-a-generation investment in Historically Black Colleges & Universities, according to Sears’ campaign website.

Sears, who emigrated from Jamaica when she was a child and served in the Marines before running for office, failed to unseat Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) in a 2004 congressional run. She served on the Virginia Board of Education and was appointed to the U.S. Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans by then-President George W. Bush.

Like the other candidates on the GOP ticket, Sears seeks to become the first Republican to win statewide in Virginia since 2009.

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