Saturday, April 1, 2023

Miyares elected Virginia attorney general, denying Herring a third term

CHURCH FALL, Virginia (AP) – Virginia Republicans have completed a low-vote sweep of state offices, defeating the Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor, including the first black woman elected to the Commonwealth state.

These victories echoed the Democrats’ defeat in the race for governors and marked a dramatic turnaround in the state, where the GOP has not won a nationwide race since 2009.

In Lieutenant Governor’s race, Republican Vincent Sears, who returned to Virginia politics after an absence of nearly two decades, defeated Democrat Hal Ayal. Sears becomes the first female lieutenant governor and the first female of color to serve on the state. If she won, Ayala would break those same historical barriers.

In the race for attorney general, Republican Jason Miyares, son of a Cuban immigrant, defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Herring, who ran for a third term.

Both Ayala and Herring lost on Wednesday.

Sears flew out of political obscurity earlier this year when she won a GOP nomination based on a campaign photo of her posing with a military rifle.

She will replace Democrat Justin Fairfax, who ran unsuccessfully for governor. Her role as a decisive voice in the tightly divided state Senate has become even more important given the GOP victories in other races. In addition to winning the governor’s mansion, the party also claims to have regained control of the House of Delegates, although it is too early to speak on several key races.

If Republicans do gain control of the House of Representatives, the only thing blocking them from full control of the state government is the Democrats’ narrow 21-19 advantage in the state Senate. Senators are not re-elected until 2023.

Democrats are particularly concerned about abortion legislation. Ayala made her support for a woman’s right to abortion a key issue in her campaign, noting that the Senate had already split 20-20 votes on the issue. Sears has long opposed abortion, which she associates with her Christian faith.

“I am primarily a Christian and secondly a Republican. I don’t want to hear about your economic policies and you are going to build a country if we have to kill babies along the way, ”she said in a 2019 interview.

A former Marine, Sears briefly participated in electoral politics 20 years ago as a one-term delegate to the General Assembly, representing parts of the Hampton Roads. Her return to politics after a two-decade absence began when she served as national chairman of the Council of Black Americans for the Re-election of President Trump.

Early Wednesday, Sears stood with her family in front of cheering supporters at the Chantilly victory party, saying, “What you see is the American Dream.”

Throughout the race, Sears also highlighted her past as an immigrant from Jamaica, campaigning against illegal immigration and rejecting the notion that the nation was plagued by systemic racism.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m Black, and I’ve been Black all my life,” she said. “But it’s not that. What we’re going to do is get on with Commonwealth affairs. We have a lot to do. “

Miyares will become the first Republican to hold the post of attorney general since Ken Cuccinelli’s victory in 2009.

Delegate from Virginia Beach, Miyares stressed that he was the son of a Cuban immigrant throughout the campaign. He often criticized Herring for the decisions of the state parole board to early release inmates without notifying the victims, decisions, according to Herring, completely outside his jurisdiction.

Herring, like Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, was forced to admit in 2019 that he once wore a blackface. He said it happened at a college party in 1980 and apologized for his actions. While Herring’s Democratic primary challenger criticized the attorney general’s behavior, Miyares did not make it an issue during the fall campaign.

Miyares narrowly won the GOP nomination over far-right opponent, Chuck Smith.

Jurisdictions across the state reported high voter turnout, with nearly 3.3 million ballots in by 3 a.m. Wednesday. This significantly exceeded the 2.6 million ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election in 2017, which was a year of high turnout in itself. The 2017 turnout was partly a backlash for Donald Trump’s 2016 election. Democrats won all three state elections in 2017.

Republicans have fought in Virginia over the past decade – Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009. But now at least two out of three Republican candidates this year have broken that streak.

The posts of attorney general and lieutenant governor served as the launching pad for the governor’s mansion. Half of Virginia’s last 10 lieutenant governors became governors. All nine previous elected attorneys general ran for governor.

Associated Press contributors Brian Witte of Chantilly, VA and Alexandra Jaffe of McLean, VA contributed to this report.

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