Virginia lieutenant governor candidate Hala Ayala scores 3 big endorsements

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, left, gets a high five from Del. Hala Ayala, D-Prince William, as he arrives for a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Northam made a statement and answered questions about the late-term abortion bill that was killed in committee. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Three of Virginia’s most prominent state Democrats have voiced their support for Hala Ayala in her bid for lieutenant governor. If she wins, Ayala, the first Afro-Latina elected to the state legislature, would make history as the first woman of color in statewide office and the first woman to serve in the role.

Gov. Ralph Northam, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and House Majority Leader Charniele Herring announced their support for Ayala together on Monday morning, and will join her at a news conference Monday afternoon to be livestreamed from the Virginia Women’s Monument in Richmond.

The three Democratic politicians praised Ayala’s contributions to expanding Medicaid, passing criminal justice reform, raising teacher pay and abolishing the death penalty while serving in the House Democratic leadership as chief deputy whip.

“During my time as governor, we have made extraordinary progress in our Commonwealth, from expanding Medicaid for 500,000 Virginians to passing critical criminal justice reforms,” Northam said in a news release posted to Ayala’s campaign website.

“Her leadership in the House Democratic majority has been central to these and so many other historic pieces of legislation that are improving the lives of Virginia families,” he added. “I’ve seen firsthand her indispensable ability to bring people together to make progress, and I know Hala will continue the good work we’ve accomplished to move Virginia forward.”

Filler-Corn and Herring both echoed Northam’s comments, with Filler-Corn lauding Ayala’s candidacy as an opportunity to bring “historic representation to the highest levels of our state government.”

Ayala joins an already crowded field competing for the limelight as well as campaign funding with five other candidates. She ranks fifth in cash on hand among the five Democratic hopefuls for lieutenant governor, with $154,960 as of March 31. Fellow delegate Sam Rasoul leads with $952,611.

The other candidates are Norfolk Council Member Andria P. McClellan; Fairfax County NAACP President Sean A. Perryman; and NFL agent and lobbying firm partner Xavier J. Warren.

Citing a source familiar with the governor’s thinking, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Northam sees Ayala as “most aligned with him ideologically and who made the most sense for the ticket.”

She has represented Virginia’s 51st District in the state’s House of Delegates, which includes part of Prince William County, since 2018. Before her career in politics, Ayala worked as a cybersecurity expert for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and helped organize the original Women’s March in 2017.

Virginia Democrats will select their candidate for lieutenant governor on June 8, alongside races for governor, attorney general and several seats in the House of Delegates. Republicans will choose their own contender at a May 8 convention.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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