CHURCH FALLS, Virginia (AP) – Republican Winsome Sears, who returned to Virginia politics after nearly two decades away, became the first female lieutenant governor and the first woman of color to land a position in Virginia.
The Republican woman jumped out of political obscurity to win the GOP nomination based on a campaign photo of her posing with a military rifle.
A former Marine Corps, Sears also highlighted that she was an immigrant from Jamaica, campaigning against illegal immigration and rejecting the notion that the nation was plagued by systemic racism.
WATCH: Republican Glenn Youngkin speaks after winning Virginia governor’s election
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.
Sears defeated Democrat Hal Ayal in Tuesday’s election. Ayala would also be the first female lieutenant governor and the first female of color to hold a position in the state if she won.
Sears will replace Democrat Justin Fairfax, who ran unsuccessfully for governor. Tuesday’s main election was a gubernatorial race, won by Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, beating former Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe.
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.”
As for the attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring sought a third term against Republican Jason Miyares, the Virginia Beach delegate. Herring will become the first attorney general to win a third term since World War II. It’s too early to announce the race.
Miyares, the son of a Cuban immigrant, also announced victory early Wednesday morning, stating that he is now the first Hispanic elected in Virginia.
“I can’t wait to work with Governor Yangkin and Lieutenant Governor Sears for you,” Miyares said.
Early Wednesday morning Herring did not concede defeat.
On Tuesday night, at a Republican party attended by Youngkin and Sears, supporters were upbeat, singing, waving signs, and dancing. While the hour-long party hadn’t yet morphed into a celebration of victory, the volume and movement was loud enough to shake the ballroom floor on the second floor from time to time.
Democrats, on the other hand, quickly ditched a joint party with statewide candidates after McAuliffe came along and simply said the votes had yet to be counted without declaring victory or conceding defeat.
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 all three Republican candidates this year are threatening to end the 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.