Staunch J’can Trump supporter wins GOP nod for Virginia lieutenant governor
“From the time my family arrived in America from Jamaica, we have realised and appreciated the opportunity that the US provided us,” said an exultant Winsome Sears, after beating out five others for her party’s nod to run for lieutenant governor of Virginia.
“However, we never could have imagined that would include the possibility of being the second-in-command of the home of the American and world’s longest-standing democracy,” Sears rejoiced in a statement following the announcement of her victory.
Sears took the nomination with 54 per cent of the weighted votes at the end of the fifth ballot counting from Saturday’s state GOP convention, to narrow the crowded field and become only the first black woman to emerge as the Republication Party’s choice for the position.
A win in November would put the former marine pilot and owner and operator of a plumbing, electrical and appliance repair business next to the Virginia governor. Seven of the state’s last 14 governors previously served as lieutenant governor.
Winsome Earle Sears, 57, emigrated from Jamaica at six and grew up in the Bronx, New York. She took the scalps of two prominent state legislators on the way to her history-making win, The Associated Press said.
She was featured in the Jamaica Observer April 26, 2021 edition of Jamaica in the World, shortly after throwing her hat in the ring for what is likely to be a tough challenge from one of the seven Democrats seeking their party’s nomination.
Virginia is described as blue, with Democrats winning the former Republican stronghold since 2004. No Republican has won a state-wide election there since 2009, and President Joseph Biden won last November’s polls by double-digits, the first Democrat to do so since 1988.
Sears, while exuding confidence about winning in the fall, will face the push back against Donald Trump whom she staunchly backed in the general election. The Washington Post said she has been national chairman of black Republicans for re-election of Trump.
During the nomination campaign she criticised the Democrats who run state government for restrictions on churches and “mom and pop” businesses during COVID-19, describing herself as “unapologetically pro-life”.
She also called herself an “ardent supporter” of Second Amendment rights and a backer of school choice, including vouchers, which she said would give families in low-income neighbourhoods more opportunity.
A photo on her Facebook page shows Sears carrying an assault-style rifle. The wording with the photo says: “Battle tested conservative. Semper Fi,” AP said.
In her campaign Sears also emphasised “ballot box integrity”, saying that she wants to bar third parties from turning in ballots for others and wants Virginia to go back to requiring a photo ID at the polls, legislative action Trump has advocated.
She said she was not suggesting that such measures would have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, but asserted that they would boost voter confidence. Sears notably worked hard in that election to win black voters for Trump.
Democrats quickly sought to label Sears as extreme.
“It’s no surprise that Republican insiders nominated a right-wing extremist like Winsome Sears,” said Del Hala Ayala, one of the seven seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
“The Republican Party of Virginia is out of touch with the needs of regular Virginians, and they continue to elevate conspiracy theorists and Trump extremists like Winsome Sears,” he charged.
Aside from being the first black woman to run for the post, Sears has other impressive firsts, such as: the first Republican to represent her majority black legislative district since 1865; first and only black Republican woman, the first female veteran and the first immigrant elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.
In November, Sears — who majored in English and minored in economics at Old Dominion University, and holds a master’s from Regent University — will officially be the Republican candidate in the election to the Virginia General Assembly, representing Norfolk in the House of Delegates.
She ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2004, but served on the Virginia Board of Education and was appointed to the US Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans by then-President George W Bush, before appearing to end her political career.
The AP said Sears “is seeking an achievement that is exceedingly rare, if not unprecedented in modern Virginia politics — a return to elective office after an absence of 18 years”. But Sears is undaunted.
“This afternoon, on my drive into Richmond, I passed the First African Baptist Church — a place of worship organised by freedmen and slaves — where, in 1865, the first-ever Republican State Convention was hosted,” said Sears in her celebratory statement.
“Now, today, as the first Republican since 1865 to represent a majority black district, I am honoured to accept the nomination to be lieutenant governor… The Republican Party and the Virginia GOP are the Big Tent Party, and it’s time our party’s base reflected our collective Virginia values.
“We’ll be going to and directly making the case to folks that are conservative but haven’t realised they’re Republicans, yet. After all, it wasn’t until President George HW Bush made the case to me during his campaign for president that I realised it, I myself, was a Republican.”
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