The candidates in Virginia’s race for lieutenant governor will make history when one of them is elected in November.
Virginia has never elected a woman for the position of lieutenant governor, and both candidates in the race — Democratic Del. Hala Ayala and Republican Winsome Sears — are women of color.
Voters in Virginia’s Democratic primary election picked Ayala Tuesday; Sears was nominated in May during a Republican party convention.
“This is going to be a landmark in Virginia,” said Virginia political analyst Bob Holsworth. “Whoever ultimately emerges victorious will certainly have a historical footnote attached to her name.”
The winner will be only the second woman elected to a statewide office in Virginia. The first was Mary Sue Terry, who was elected attorney general in 1985 and again in 1989. Virginia has elected two people of color to statewide offices: current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and former Gov. Doug Wilder.
The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate and can break tie votes in a chamber that Democrats narrowly control. The post has often served as a launching pad for gubernatorial bids, including that of current Gov. Ralph Northam.
“The Democratic and the Republican tickets reflected the growing diversity in Virginia in a way that was not always the case in previous election cycles,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.
Ayala, who launched her political career in 2017 in response to the election of Donald Trump, was the favorite of the Democratic establishment and had the endorsement of Northam and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. She came out on top of a six-candidate field; in second was Roanoke Del. Sam Rasoul, who had been a slight favorite and the preferred candidate of the party’s progressive wing.
In the Republican convention last month, Sears, who 20 years ago became the first Black Republican woman elected to the Virginia Assembly, made a political comeback, defeating five other candidates, including two — former Del. Tim Hugo, from Fairfax County, and Virginia Beach Del. Glenn Davis — who were far more active in recent GOP politics.
Sears served a single term representing parts of Hampton Roads in the House, winning election in 2001. She did not seek reelection and now lives in the Winchester area.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.