ICYMI: The Washington Post Op-Ed: Virginia’s lieutenant governor nominees couldn’t be more opposite on key issues

In case you missed it, the Washington Post recently featured an opinion column proving once again that Winsome Sears is far too extreme for Virginia. While Delegate Hala Ayala, Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, advances Virginians’ priorities, her opponent is out of step with Virginians’ views and is fighting to roll back the progress the Commonwealth has made on abortion rights, commonsense gun safety reforms, and COVID-19 recovery. 

Washington Post: Virginia’s lieutenant governor nominees couldn’t be more opposite on key issues
By: Mark J. Rozell

Finding stark differences on hot-button issues between Virginia’s lieutenant governor candidates — Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) and Republican former delegate Winsome Sears — is easy.

What voters must resolve over the next week is which candidate is best suited to hold the deciding vote on critical legislation in a narrowly divided state Senate and be a heartbeat away from Virginia’s Executive Mansion.

The undercard contest between Ayala and Sears, overshadowed by the gubernatorial race, is among the most remarkable in Virginia history. Both are self-made women with compelling life stories of overcoming searing poverty and personal adversity. The victor will be the first woman of color to win a statewide election in Virginia.

Ayala, who is of Lebanese, Afro-Latina and Irish descent, is an unflinching progressive who unseated longtime Republican delegate Rich Anderson, now chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, in the 2017 blue wave election and helped pass a broad expansion of Medicaid in Virginia a year later. The House’s Democratic leaders rewarded her energy after they won a majority in 2019 with a position of strategic responsibility unifying Democratic delegates behind landmark legislation. That included tighter gun restrictions, legalizing recreational marijuana use, easing Virginia voter requirements, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and becoming the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty.

The women could not be more different ideologically, particularly on three issues that recent statewide polls show are motivating voters. On each, polling suggests Sears is swimming far against the current.

On abortion rights, Sears endorsed a Texas law that is the nation’s most restrictive, effectively banning abortions after six weeks — before most women know they are pregnant.

A CBS News poll conducted Oct. 4-11 showed 58 percent of 1,040 registered Virginia voters surveyed said abortion was a major factor for them, and 58 percent also said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Sears opposes coronavirus masking and vaccination mandates as a means of controlling the disease. Though she encourages people to get a vaccine, she refuses to say whether she has been vaccinated, calling it a personal privacy issue.

A Washington Post/Schar School poll last month showed that more than two-thirds of registered Virginia voters supported school districts making vaccinations compulsory for teachers and staff and for requiring masks for school personnel and students. Majorities also favored vaccination mandates for high school athletes and for employees of businesses that must report to a common workplace. Virginia’s support for mandates exceeded the national average.

Sears’s unequivocal support for gun rights helped her stun many who believed she had no chance to win the party’s nomination. A photo of her holding an assault rifle — unsmiling and snapped after she fired the weapon at a shooting range earlier this year — won over the GOP’s largely rural, strongly pro-gun base but could hurt her among suburban moderates and independents next week.

A September 2019 Post/Schar School poll showed that 58 percent of the respondents support stricter gun laws in Virginia.

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As Warner knew, the campaign for lieutenant governor, thoroughly overshadowed time and again in Virginia by the gubernatorial prize contest, matters a great deal. The winner is a potential tiebreaking vote on critical policy issues, next in the line of succession to lead the commonwealth and very often a future gubernatorial nominee.