Winsome Sears: Virginia elects first woman and first woman of color to serve as lieutenant governor
CNN predicted Sears would win over Democrat Del. Hala Ayala, also a woman of color, on Wednesday.
Ayala congratulated Sears on making history and “paving the way for future female leaders who look like us”.
“We may not be able to win today, but we know that the results of these elections are just a small setback in our bigger struggle for progress,” Ayala said in a statement on Wednesday in which she thanked her supporters.
She also wished Sears “luck and success” when the two spoke on Wednesday, Lauren Chou, communications director for Ayala’s campaign, told CNN.
Sears, who was born in Jamaica, is the first black Republican woman to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly, representing the 90th District for a term beginning in 2002. In 2004 she ran an unsuccessful bid for Congress against Democratic MP Bobby Scott. She is also a Marine veteran, former vice president of the Virginia Board of Education, and owner of an equipment business. She is a wife and mother of three daughters. In 2012, their 27-year-old daughter DeJon L’Air Williams and two grandchildren died in a car accident.
“It’s a historic night – yes it is – but I didn’t run away to make history. I just wanted to leave it better than I found it, ”Sears said early Wednesday morning to a crowd of supporters.
She was national chairman of Black Americans Making America First, a coalition that promotes initiatives by former President Donald Trump and defended him after controversy and racist comments. When asked about her support for Trump, Sears told CNN, “I am an independent thinker” and pledged to ensure that “a more diverse board and committee representation is appointed.” She also said she would increase funding for historically black colleges and universities.
In general, Sears has downplayed the influence of race on their political attitudes and touted the advancement of equality for black Americans, but also acknowledged that there is still more to be done.
“There is no census bureau category called ‘color’. I’m black Virginians are ready for strong, principled and sensible leaders to serve them regardless of skin color, ”Sears previously told CNN when asked the importance of being the first woman of color to serve as lieutenant governor.
She reiterated this progress on Wednesday morning and promoted the election of former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris, who also broke barriers and made history.
“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m black and I’ve been black all my life. But that’s not what it is all about here. What we are going to do is deal with Commonwealth affairs now. We have things to do, “she said, which includes fully funding historic black colleges and universities and mentioning Youngkin’s plans for the state.” We will have safer neighborhoods, safer communities, and our children will get a good education. ”
Her rise to the state’s second highest office culminates in the end of a nationalized and narrow gubernatorial race in which she and Ayala were divided on several issues, including vaccine and mask mandates. It also comes amid the aftermath of a racist reckoning of police brutality and Confederate imagery, a shadow of its dark past tainted by slavery.
The election of a woman to the state vice governor comes nearly two years after the election of the first female speaker of the House of Representatives.
Coupled with the closely watched gubernatorial race, widely regarded as a guiding star when President Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 percentage points last year, the Commonwealth is also attracting national attention as a civil case against the organizers of the deadly Unite the Rally is underway Charlottesville four years ago, fueled by the city’s decision to remove a Confederate statue.
Sears would not say whether she supports the removal of Confederate monuments when asked by CNN, despite previously criticizing Republicans for adopting the Confederate flag. Instead, Sears emphasized the progress blacks had made in their lifetime when asked about racial relations in the Commonwealth.
“We have a saying in church: ‘I may not be what I should be, but I am not what I used to be.’ And that’s America, “said Sears. “We are not back in 1963 when my father was at the height of the civil rights movement and we were very badly blacks.”
“Do changes need to be made? Absolutely sure, ”added Sears. “There is no country in the world that does not suffer from racism. … But you have seen people die to cross the border into America because they know that when they get their feet on American soil, the trajectory of her “Life will change – like my father.”
While Ayala has been open that she is fully vaccinated and supports mask mandates in certain situations, Sears has refused to say whether or not she is vaccinated, declines immunization mandates and called for an end to the state’s mask mandate earlier this year. She has encouraged people to get vaccinated but said “no one should be forced to reveal their vaccination status”.
In the last few weeks of the campaign there has been heated debate about how race should be taught in Virginia public schools, particularly the teaching of “critical racial theory,” a concept that examines the extent to which long-standing systems in America lead to disparate outcomes for people of color People. Although the state’s Department of Education denies that CRT is taught in public schools, the debate has become a key topic and is the latest focal point in the Republican-sponsored cultural wars.
Sears has called the concept “racist,” but also said that the good and bad of American history should be taught.
“If critical race theory means telling a child that once you come out of the womb, you’re a racist and a colonizer and whatever, that’s not going to be good. It will create moral problems for everyone, ”Sears told the Virginia Mercury in August. “If we want to teach African American history, why teach only for a month? Let’s teach this throughout. Let’s talk about these things. You can’t escape history. Let’s talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. “
As the debate about teaching America’s dark past continues across the country, the legacy of the racial justice protests last year has also renewed national debates on police, crime, and gun violence, particularly in Virginia, which is lingering on from the Virginia shootings Beach affected in 2019 has left 12 dead.
Sears has vowed to protect gun rights, opposed red flag laws, advocated law enforcement, and spoke of the need to “use our police, our sheriff and our law enforcement officers to protect our families and our neighborhoods.” She told CNN that she will work with law enforcement agencies and families who have experienced gun violence to “develop workable solutions” to balance their support for gun rights and curb gun violence.