Candidates in Virginia's Historic Race for Lt. Governor Speak on Education, Abortion, COVID

Two women — both women of of color — are competing to be the person who presides over the Virginia Senate

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History will be made in a week no matter the result of the race for Virginia's lieutenant governor. Two women — both women of of color — are competing to be the person who presides over the Virginia Senate, and the person who casts the tie-breaking vote.

Democrat Hala Ayala and Republican Winsome Sears told News4 they each have a different take on possibly becoming “the first.”

"When we talk about making history and electing a woman of color we must elect the right woman of color to this seat. It is so important," Ayala said.

"The only thing I would want for this history thing is for children to see me and say, 'Oh, Winsome is there. If Winsome can do it, I can do it," Sears said.

Sears, born in Jamaica, became a Marine. Two decades ago, an upset victory won her a General Assembly seat for one term. She later served on the State Board of Education.

This campaign poster helping to fuel her latest run for office. Her motivation: the need to improve Virginia’s public education system.

"Eighty-four percent of black children cannot do math by the time they are in the 8th grade," Sears said. "Without the children having a good education, they have no future. There are no doors open to them."

Ayala — who identifies as Afro-Latina, Lebanese and Irish — says her involvement as a school PTO president to advocate for her son with autism propelled her toward activism.

She was first elected in 2017 to represent a Prince William County district, part of
the wave of women ushered in that year.

Ayala said she’s running for Lt. Governor to continue to push for what she calls “democratic successes.”

"I want to be the last woman in the room with the Governor. I want to talk about these issues … paid family medical leave, we’re talking about Medicaid expansion, teacher pay raises," Ayala said.

The issue of abortion is a sharp distinction between the women.

"I will be a firewall for women and families and individuals and their reproductive health care," Ayala said.

Sears declined to say whether she’d push for new abortion restrictions, but suggested the procedure should rarely be permitted.

"I’m saying to you for the life and the health of the mother, rape and incest," Sears said.

COVID-19 vaccination status is another area in which the candidates differ. Ayala makes sure voters know she’s vaccinated.

"We are running for the second-highest office in the commonwealth and it’s incumbent on us to lead by example," she said.

Sears said she wants people to get vaccinated, but refuses to say whether she’s gotten the shot.

"I’m leading by example in saying I am also representing people who want to ensure their privacy because you don’t want the government in your business," she said.

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