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By Brandon Jarvis

Hala Ayala was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2017 among a blue wave that helped 14 other Democrats flip seats that were formerly held by Republicans. Four years later, Ayala is looking to win big again, this time at the statewide level as she is running for lieutenant governor. 

In an interview with Virginia Scope, she said that years ago she never would have expected to be on the stage she is now. “If you told me two decades ago while I was working at a gas station making minimum wage…. Respectfully I would say you are nuts.” Ayala said. “Especially sharing the stage with the President of the United States…mind blown.”

Ayala is looking to keep the lieutenant governor seat in Democratic control for a third straight term. Republicans haven’t won statewide since 2009, but they are hopeful that they can turn the tides this year. 

One fear being discussed among insiders and political analysts is the potential drop off in Democratic enthusiasm with Trump no longer in the White House. While he was in office from 2017-2021, Democrats in Virginia flipped 21 House seats, 2 state Senate seats, three congressional seats, and won all statewide races by wide margins.

“Trump is on the ballot this year,” Ayala said when asked about what they are doing to help energize the party base. “He may not be physically on the ballot but his policies are on the ballot and this is not the time to sit on the sidelines when you have the Republican ticket that wants to bring extreme vigilante policies like the one you are seeing in Texas to Virginia. This is very scary stuff.”

Ayala said the Republican ticket is out of touch with what Virginia voters want and touted the work of Democrats the last two years and their desire to protect the progress they have made. “We are going to fight hard to protect an individual’s right to choose, we are going to protect Medicaid expansion, we are going to protect our democracy, protect our gun safety laws, and we are going to protect the work and progress that we have made to bring this commonwealth forward.”

Recent polling has shown a tight race for Ayala and her Republican opponent, Winsome Sears. “I appreciate the polling but we are not taking any votes for granted,” Ayala said. “I am working hard to earn every vote by sharing my message with Virginians across the state.”

Sears recently said she would support the same heartbeat restriction on abortions that was just implemented in Texas if that was in front of her in Virginia. “What is your position when it comes to the pro-life issue? Will you be committed to support a heartbeat bill in Virginia?” the host of a Newsmax show asked Sears in an interview. “I can tell you that would be me, that I would support that,” Sears responded. “Because here’s the thing, when did it become the wrong thing for us to support the babies in the womb,” she continued. 

Ayala pushed back against the comments from Sears. “I am a big fan of Maya Angelou and she said when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Trust me, she has made it clear on multiple occasions that she doesn’t support an individual’s right to choose,” Ayala said in an interview. “I will never stop fighting for an individual’s right to choose.”

It was reported last week that Sears fired her entire staff by email in one night, leaving just her consultant group Creative Direct. Ayala didn’t respond directly when questioned about the staff terminations. “We have just a few days left in this election and we have to stay laser-focused,” she said. “We take nothing for granted.”

Her goal right now is to earn people’s trust and be successful this November.

Ayala and Sears face off on Nov. 2, but early voting begins in Virginia this Friday, Sept. 17. 

Listen to Virginia Scope’s full interview with Ayala below:

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By vascope