Washington

First Black GOP woman in Virginia Assembly making history again with lieutenant governor run

Winsome Sears is no stranger to defying the odds.

In 2001, Mrs. Sears was elected as the first Black Republican woman and first female veteran to serve in the Virginia General Assembly.

Twenty years later, Mrs. Sears, 57, is the first Black GOP woman in the state to become the nominee for lieutenant governor, alongside Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin.

The Jamaica-born former lawmaker’s history of bucking the norm gives her confidence for the possibility of flipping Democratic-leaning Virginia to red in November.

She hopes that’s in part because more voters of color turn out to vote Republican.

“Nobody ever knocked on my door and asked for my vote,” Mrs. Sears told The Washington Times.  “No one talked to me about the issues, whatever issues there were. It was you’re Black and that’s all there was. You’re a Democrat and that’s all there is.”

Mrs. Sears kicked off her campaign in Middletown on Monday, alongside Mr. Youngkin. The two nominees will also be on the ticket with GOP state Del. Jason Miyares, who is running for attorney general. Mr. Miyares did not attend the event.

The three are competing against former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Democratic state Del. Hala Ayala who is the lieutenant governor nominee, and current Attorney General Mark Herring who is running for a third term.

Mrs. Sears said she is making education a central focus in her campaign, particularly zeroing in on the need to improve literacy rates for students of color.

She is also in favor of investing more dollars into classrooms, including raising teacher pay, a proposal Mr. McAuliffe has touted in his campaign.

The nominee has not emphasized critical race theory to the extent of her running mate Mr. Youngkin, though she has expressed concerns about the controversial curriculum.

Mr. Youngkin has campaigned on banning critical race theory in Virginia schools.

Mrs. Sears has instead focused her messaging on closing the learning gap and advocating for school choice, while also ensuring schools remain open in the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need critical reading theory, critical math theory, critical science and technology theory,” Mrs. Sears said. “This is what our children need in order to get ahead.”

Mrs. Sears also has proposals to improve the criminal justice system in Virginia by toughening up on violent offenders while advancing job training and education programs for those reentering society after being incarcerated.

Mrs. Sears wants to ensure that those coming out of prison have the opportunity to have a trade or college degree or a GED.

She also wants to improve literacy rates among inmates, which studies have shown help reduce recidivism rates.

Mrs. Sears’ interest in criminal justice reform partially stems from formerly working with a prison ministry for two years.

“America is really the land of second chances,” Mrs. Sears said, touching on her experience.

Other issues Mrs. Sears is hoping to advance if elected include loosening gun control restrictions, restricting abortion access, and curbing voting measures.

Mrs. Sears is proposing stricter mail-in voting rules, a statewide voter ID mandate, and regular updates of voter rolls to delete residents who have moved.

Mrs. Sears also touched on her working relationships and personal friendships with Mr. Youngkin and Mr. Miyares, both of whom she described as being “like family.”

“When it’s just Jason and myself, or I hear it also when Glenn and Jason are together because all three of us can’t be together, it feels like you’re missing an appendix because we just get along so well,” Mrs. Sears said.

Polls show that the Virginia governor’s race is right, with Mr. McAuliffe holding a narrow lead.

A July poll by the nonpartisan Trafalgar Group found that Mr. McAuliffe held a two-point lead over Mr. Youngkin.

The poll, which surveyed 1,104 people and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.87 percentage points.

Virginia law bars governors from running two consecutive terms, but they are able to do so at a later time.

The election will be held on Nov. 2. 

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