Winsome Earle Sears (born March 11, 1964) is a Jamaican-born American politician serving as the 42nd lieutenant governor of Virginia. A member of the Republican Party, Sears served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002 to 2004. She also served on the Virginia Board of Education, and she ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia’s 3rd congressional district in 2004 and for U.S. Senate in 2018. In 2021, Sears was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia as the running mate of Glenn Youngkin.

Sears is the first woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Virginia, and is the first woman of color and first Jamaican-born American citizen elected to statewide office in Virginia.[1][2]

Early life, education, and career before politics

Sears was born in Kingston, Jamaica on March 11, 1964, and she immigrated to the United States at the age of six.[3] She grew up in the Bronx, New York City.[4] Sears earned an A.A. from Tidewater Community College, a B.A. in English with a minor in economics from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in organizational leadership from Regent University.[5]

Sears served as an electrician in the United States Marines from 1983 to 1986.[6] Before running for public office, Sears directed a Salvation Army homeless shelter.[7]

Political career

In November 2001, Sears upset 20-year Democratic incumbent Billy Robinson while running for the 90th district seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates,[8][9] becoming the first Jamaican female Republican,[10] first female veteran, and first naturalized citizen delegate, to serve in the body.[11] In 2004, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi appointed her to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs‘ Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.[12]

In 2004, Sears unsuccessfully challenged Democrat Bobby Scott for Virginia’s 3rd congressional district seat.[13] She received 31% of the vote.[6]

Sears opened a home appliance business in Virginia after her 2004 election loss.[14]

Governor Bob McDonnell appointed Sears to the Virginia Board of Education in 2011.[15]

In September 2018, Sears entered the race for U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate after Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination, citing his past alliances with white nationalists and other racial controversies.[16] She received less than 1% of the vote.[17]

During the 2020 United States presidential election campaign, Sears supported Donald Trump and was national chairwoman of the PAC “Black Americans to Re-elect the President.”[18][19]

Lieutenant Governor of Virginia

2021 lieutenant gubernatorial election

On May 11, 2021, Sears won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Virginia on the fifth ballot, defeating former state delegate and second-place finisher Tim Hugo 54% to 46%.[7] On November 2, 2021, she won the race along with gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and attorney general candidate Jason Miyares.[20] She was inaugurated as the 42nd lieutenant governor of Virginia on January 15, 2022. She is the first female lieutenant governor of Virginia as well as the first black woman lieutenant governor and statewide office-holder in the Commonwealth.[1][2]

During the election campaign, she declined to state whether she had been vaccinated against COVID-19,[21] but she encouraged others to get vaccinated.[22] After the election, Sears spoke with CNN and referenced false information and misconceptions about COVID-19, mask use, and vaccines.[21]

Political positions

Abortion

During her campaign for lieutenant governor, Sears initially said she would support legislation like the Texas Heartbeat Act, which makes abortion illegal as soon as fetal heartbeat can be detected (as early as six weeks).[14] She has stated that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape and incest, or to prevent harm to a pregnant woman.[23] Later in her 2021 campaign, WRIC-TV wrote that Sears “appeared to backtrack” on her initial comments about the Texas Heartbeat Act.[24] Sears said she did not examine the Texas law, and she declined to state when she thought abortion should be made illegal.[24] After Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Sears announced her support for a 15-week abortion ban.[25]

Cannabis

In 2021, Sears said she supported medical marijuana but opposed the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.[26][27]

Education

Sears has called for the opening of more charter schools, lab schools, and virtual schools in Virginia.[28][29]

Sears has argued that critical race theory (CRT) was “definitely being taught in some form or fashion” in Virginia schools, and accused critics of using “semantics” to deny it.[30] Politifact rated as “False” Glenn Youngkin’s claim that critical race theory has “moved into all of our schools in Virginia.” The site found that, though CRT had been discussed among educators, it was not part of the state’s “Standards of Learning” and several school districts denied teaching it to students.[31] Sears called the CRT concept “racist;” she also said the good and bad of American history should be taught.[2][32]

After COVID-19 interrupted schooling in the state, Sears floated the possibilities of having year-round school or longer school days to make up lost educational time.[33]

LGBT rights

Sears opposed same-sex marriage in her 2004 campaign[34][35] and wrote in an op-ed that she strongly supported a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman and that “our society has gone immeasurably beyond almost all standards in accommodating the homosexual community over the last couple of decades.”[36] Sears supports civil unions, but she believes same-sex marriage will continue under precedent.[25]

Gun rights

Sears supports gun rights.[24] Her 2021 lieutenant gubernatorial campaign included a photo of Sears with a rifle that was used on campaign material and social media, which drew criticism from Democrats[37] but also increased her prominence among Republicans, helping elevate her from political obscurity.[23][38]

Personal life

Sears is married to Terence Sears.[39] She has had three daughters. One of Sears’s daughters died in a 2012 car crash, along with Sears’s two young granddaughters.[40] As of 2016, she and her family resided in Winchester.[41] She is a devout Christian,[42] and authored a Christian self-help book, Stop Being a Christian Wimp!, before entering politics.[43][23]

Electoral history

DateElectionCandidatePartyVotes%
Virginia House of Delegates, 90th district
November 6, 2001[8]GeneralWinsome SearsRepublican6,69653
William “Billy” Robinson Jr. (incumbent)Democratic6,01747
Write Ins40
Republican defeated Democratic incumbent
Virginia 3rd congressional district
November 2, 2004[13]GeneralBobby Scott (incumbent)Democratic159,37369
Winsome SearsRepublican70,19431
Write Ins3250
Democratic incumbent held seat
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
November 2, 2021[44]GeneralWinsome SearsRepublican1,658,33250.71
Hala AyalaDemocratic1,608,03049.17
Write Ins3,8070.12
Republican won Democratic held seat

References

  1. ^ a b Turner, Mikea (January 14, 2022). “Winsome Sears to make history as first woman – & Black woman – to be Virginia’s Lt. Governor”. WWBT. Retrieved January 15, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Duster, Chandelis (November 3, 2021). “Winsome Sears will become Virginia lieutenant governor, CNN projects, becoming first female and woman of color in the office”. CNN. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  3. ^ Graf, Heather (October 26, 2021). “Lieutenant governor race in Virginia: Meet Republican candidate Winsome Sears”. WJLA. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  4. ^ McLeod, Sheri-Kae (May 24, 2021). “Jamaican-born Winsome Earle Sears Wins Republican Party Nod for Lieutenant Gov”.
  5. ^ “Biography of Winsome Sears”. Vote Smart. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Caine, Andrew (January 21, 2021). “Winsome Sears launches GOP bid for lieutenant governor”. Richmond Times-Dispatch.
  7. ^ a b Olivo, Antonio; Vozzella, Laura (May 12, 2021). “Winsome Sears, former state delegate, wins GOP nomination for Virginia lieutenant governor”. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 26, 2022.
  8. ^ a b “General Election – November 6, 2001”. Virginia State Board of Elections. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  9. ^ “With victory, Sears broke down barriers”. The Washington Times. November 23, 2001.
  10. ^ “Del. Sears visits Old Dominion class Tuesday”. News at Old Dominion University. November 22, 2002. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  11. ^ Lewis, Bob (December 15, 2001). “Black GOP Woman Stuns Va. Politics”. Norfolk, Va.: Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 9, 2016. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  12. ^ New Members Appointed to Committee on Women Veterans (press release), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (January 26, 2004).
  13. ^ a b “General Election – November 2, 2004”. Virginia State Board of Elections. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  14. ^ a b Paviour, Ben (January 13, 2022). “Virginia’s first Black woman lieutenant governor says we need to move on from slavery”. NPR.
  15. ^ Antonio Olivo, Back in the Virginia political spotlight, Winsome Sears seeks to lift GOP in bid for lieutenant governor, Washington Post (October 15, 2021).
  16. ^ Wilson, Patrick (September 18, 2018). “Former GOP state delegate wants Republicans to write in her name for U.S. Senate instead of voting for Corey Stewart”. Roanoke Times.
  17. ^ “Official 2018 November General Election Results, Virginia”. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  18. ^ Now called “Black Americans Making America First.”
  19. ^ ‘I Look Like the Strategy’: Winsome Sears Wants Black Voters to Rethink the G.O.P.” Retrieved June 26, 2022.
  20. ^ Panetta, Grace; Seddiq, Oma (November 2, 2021). “Republican Winsome Sears defeats Hala Ayala in Virginia lieutenant governor’s race”. Business Insider. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  21. ^ a b Pellish, Aaron (November 21, 2021). “Virginia’s incoming lieutenant governor questions Covid vaccines for those who’ve had the virus before”. CNN. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  22. ^ Olivo, Antonio (October 7, 2021). “Republican candidate’s vaccination status becomes a target in Virginia lieutenant governor’s race”. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 26, 2022. Citing a October 7, 2021 Twitter post from Sears.
  23. ^ a b c Barakat, Matthew (November 13, 2021). “History-making Winsome Sears ready to work in Virginia”. Associated Press. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  24. ^ a b c DeFusco, Jackie (October 29, 2022). “Virginia’s choice for lieutenant governor could impact marijuana, abortion, gun control”. WRIC-TV. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  25. ^ a b DeFusco, Jackie (June 28, 2022). “Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears on future of abortion in Virginia”. WRIC-TV. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  26. ^ DeFusco, Jackie (October 29, 2021). “Virginia’s choice for lieutenant governor could impact marijuana, abortion, gun control”. WRIC. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  27. ^ Jarvis, Brandon (August 11, 2021). “The retail legalization of marijuana could be significantly impacted by November’s elections in Virginia”. VA Scope. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  28. ^ Minock, Nick (February 13, 2022). “Va. Lt. Gov. wants to expand charter schools; Sen. Lucas against using public school funds”. WSET-TVA. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  29. ^ Earle-Sears, Winsome (February 5, 2022). “Winsome Earle-Sears column: Creating a better education for Virginia’s next generation”. Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved February 17, 2022. We can do that with an Education Savings Account, by utilizing the Virginia Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit, and by opening more charter schools, lab schools and virtual schools.
  30. ^ Nelson, Joshua Q. (January 17, 2022). “Winsome Sears rips critical race theory: ‘Our children are not learning’ in school”. Fox News.
  31. ^ Fiske, Warren (August 10, 2021). “Youngkin offers little proof critical race theory is in ‘all’ Virginia schools”. Politifact.
  32. ^ “If Critical Race Theory means that telling a child that once you emerge from the womb you are a racist and a colonizer and whatever else, that’s not going to be good. That’s going to create morale problems for everybody. … If we’re going to teach about African American history, why just keep it to one month? Let’s teach it throughout. Let’s talk about these things. You can’t escape history. Let’s talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.” (Duster/CNN, 2021)
  33. ^ “Year-round school? Longer days in the classroom? How to make up the learning loss deficit”. ABC 7 News. February 17, 2022. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  34. ^ Ley, Ana (January 21, 2010). “Winsome E. Sears, once a local Republican on the rise, announces bid for lieutenant governor”. The Virginia-Pilot.
  35. ^ Carroll, Fred (October 12, 2004). “Candidates Clash in Debate”. Daily Press.
  36. ^ Sears, Winsome (March 22, 2004). “Another Voice: Marriage Deserves Preservation”. Daily Press. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  37. ^ Carey, Julie (May 14, 2021). “Va. GOP Nomination for Lt. Gov. Draws Controversy With Campaign Photo of Rifle”. NBC Washington. Retrieved June 26, 2022.
  38. ^ Winsome Sears clinches the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, rounding out the Republican ticket, Prince William Times (May 11, 2021): “She may be most known for a campaign photo showing the former Marine posing with a military rifle.”
  39. ^ Mirshahi, Dean (January 15, 2022). “Winsome Sears, the first woman of color to hold statewide office in Virginia, sworn in as lieutenant governor”. wavy.com.
  40. ^ Clayton, Cindy. “Ex-local delegate loses three relatives in fatal wreck”. Pilot Online. The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved November 4, 2021.
  41. ^ “Sterling Women of Winchester: Past Events”. sterlingwomen.org. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  42. ^ Olivo, Antonio; Vozzella, Laura (January 22, 2022). “Virginia lieutenant governor Earle-Sears makes her mark in Richmond during tumultuous first week”. Washington Post.
  43. ^ Robertson, Campbell (December 27, 2021). ‘I Look Like the Strategy’: Winsome Sears Wants Black Voters to Rethink the G.O.P.” New York Times.
  44. ^ “General Election – November 2, 2021”. Virginia State Board of Elections. Retrieved November 17, 2021.

External links

Virginia House of Delegates
Preceded by

Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from the 90th district

2002–2004
Succeeded by

Party political offices
Preceded by

Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
2021
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by

Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
2022–present
Incumbent