NORFOLK, Va. — Republican Winsome Sears is projected to become Virginia's next lieutenant governor, defeating Democrat Hala Ayala and becoming the first woman of color to serve in that office.
The Associated Press called the race at noon on Wednesday. She got 51% of the vote.
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Nearly two decades ago, Sears served a single term in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing parts of Hampton Roads. She's a former Marine and was the first Black Republican woman to serve in the General Assembly after her election in 2001.
Just like the governor's and attorney general's race, recent polling showed a tight race between her and Ayala. The most recent poll from the Wason Center showed Sears trailing Ayala by 1%, with 4% undecided.
Ayala conceded the race, issuing the following statement:
"Virginia, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. The results are in, and while they may not be what we had hoped for, this is just the beginning. I want to congratulate my opponent on making history and paving the way for future women leaders who look like us. We may not be able to claim victory today, but we know that the results of this election are simply a minor setback in our larger fight for progress.”
I’ve always said that this campaign was never about ‘me,’ but about ‘we.’ I want to thank the tireless volunteers and campaign staff who knocked doors, made phone calls, and sent text messages. Thank you for your refusal to settle for what is, and for your unwavering commitment to fight for what could be. That commitment is what brought more early voters to the ballot box than any other off-year election in our Commonwealth’s history. And of course, thank you to my friends and my family, who have been my rock through this wild ride.
I have been so fortunate to have traveled the Commonwealth and connected with more Virginians than I ever thought I would have the opportunity to embrace. And with every conversation, roundtable, and community event, I’ve emerged even more sure of my commitment to uplifting and fighting for every Virginian’s voice to be heard. Regardless of the role that I hold today, tomorrow, or 10 years from now, you can count on me to put you first, because Virginia is my family."
Sears will succeed Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. She will be sworn in on Jan. 15, 2022.