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Del. Hala Ayala wins crowded Democratic primary for lieutenant governor
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Del. Hala Ayala wins crowded Democratic primary for lieutenant governor

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Sam Rasoul Concedes

Del. Hala Ayala won the six-person Democratic primary for lieutenant governor Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

Ayala, D-Prince William, is Afro-Latina and will be the first Hispanic woman on a statewide ballot in Virginia. She’s the only candidate of color on the Democrats’ statewide fall ticket, which includes Terry McAuliffe, the former governor who is seeking the office again, and Attorney General Mark Herring, who wants a third term.

All three candidates live in Northern Virginia.

Ayala will face GOP nominee Winsome Sears in the fall. And Ayala’s nomination means that regardless of who wins, Virginia will see its first woman elected to statewide office since 1989. Either Ayala or Sears will be the first woman of color elected statewide in Virginia history.

“When you live a life of struggle — losing a father to gun violence, surviving childbirth thanks only to Medicaid, and almost losing my son — it puts things in perspective,” Ayala said in a statement Tuesday after winning. “I understand the struggles so many Virginia families face because I’ve lived them, and that experience is why I worked with my colleagues to expand Medicaid for over 500,000 Virginians, fight for gun violence prevention, raise teacher pay, and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.”

Her win — bolstered by an endorsement from Gov. Ralph Northam — represents success for the establishment wing of the party and for Virginia’s largest electric utility, which backed her against the progressive Sam Rasoul.

In the closing days of the campaign, Ayala accepted $100,000 from regulated utility Dominion Energy, which has a long history of influencing lawmakers to write laws favorable to Dominion’s bottom line. Ayala’s decision reversed previous campaign promises to never accept Dominion’s cash.

Sears attacked Ayala in a statement Tuesday night over the Dominion Energy donation.

“Delegate Ayala has proven that Virginians cannot trust her, that her pocket is prime for lining, and that her loyalty can be bought — just ask Clean Virginia about her $100,000 broken promise.”

Ayala’s mother was Lebanese and Irish, and her father was an immigrant from El Salvador with African roots.

She was elected to the House of Delegates in the anti-Trump blue wave of 2017 and re-elected in 2019, both times defeating Rich Anderson, now chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.

Ayala focused her race on health care, saying Medicaid saved the lives of her and her son.

She had the support of Northam; House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax; House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria; and House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian, D-Prince William.

“In 400 years Virginia has never had a woman as lieutenant governor,” Northam said in a TV ad for Ayala’s campaign. “America just made history with the election of Kamala Harris. It’s time to do the same here in the commonwealth by electing Hala Ayala.”

Ayala received key endorsements from groups like Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice Democratic women for office.

Ayala greeted voters Tuesday in Richmond with Mayor Levar Stoney and also campaigned in Henrico County with Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond.

Rasoul finished second. Also running were Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria; Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan; Sean Perryman; and Xavier Warren.

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