CHANTILLY, Va. — Virginia voters made history by electing Republican Winsome Sears as the commonwealth’s first woman lieutenant governor. The post has been held by men for the entirety of the state’s history.
Sears’ projected win also marks another milestone for Virginia as she becomes the first woman of color to be elected to statewide office.
Sears, a businesswoman and Marine Corps. veteran, last held office two decades ago. She returns to politics after serving one term in the House of Delegates from 2002 to 2004 and running unsuccessfully for a U.S. House seat in 2004.
"The only barrier that I really care about is the education of children," Sears said Wednesday morning after her projected win. "Because education is what lifted my father out of poverty when he came from Jamaica in 1963 with only $1.75. It's what lifted me, and it's what will lift everyone. That's what I really want because then you can dictate your own future."
The Republican was also the vice president of the Virginia State Board of Education and received presidential appointments to the US Census Bureau, where she co-chaired the African American Committee and the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. She is also a trained electrician, the leader of a men’s prison ministry and a director of a women’s homeless shelter for The Salvation Army.
As lieutenant governor, Sears hopes to focus on the economy by implementing a small-business tax holiday, cutting what she calls unnecessary regulations by 25% and eliminating the state’s grocery tax, according to her website.
Her win gives her an important role in presiding over the state Senate, which is made up of 21 Democrats, 18 Republicans and one Independent.
She defeated Democratic challenger Hala Ayala, a longtime cybersecurity expert, with 51% of the vote (95% of precincts reporting).
Republicans scored another big win in Virginia Tuesday, as political newcomer Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe -- who served as governor from 2014 to 2018. The former business executive’s win is being touted as a democratic rebuff in the Commonwealth, which has trended blue over the past several elections. President Joe Biden won the state by 10 percentage points in 2020 against former President Donald Trump.
Youngkin campaigned on a platform of cutting living costs, reinvigorating job growth and community safety, and investing in education. Ongoing protests against the school board in Northern Virginia’s affluent Loudoun County became a rallying cry for Republicans, who hoped to tie McAuliffe to what they see as a pattern of government hostility to parents’ rights.
"This is a moment for us to make a statement that big government control is going to lose and liberty and freedom in Virginia are going to win," Youngkin said. "We are going to bring Virginia together, where we build friendships, build neighborhoods. Together. Not divisive."