Prince William County Del. Hala Ayala on Tuesday bested a field of six candidates to win the Democratic nomination to run for lieutenant governor, the state’s second-highest office.
With all but nine of the state's 2,584 precincts counted, Ayala had 37.4% of the vote to 24.2% for the second-place candidate, Roanoke Del. Sam Rasoul, according to data from the Virginia Department of Elections.
Arlington Del. Mark Levine appeared headed for a third-place finish in the six-way race with 11.2%, followed by Norfolk city councilwoman Andria McClellan at 10.7%
Rounding out the field were:
- Fairfax NAACP President Sean Perryman, fifth at 8%
- Xavier Warren, a lobbyist and NFL agent, sixth at 4.3%
Prince William Del. Elizabeth Guzman withdrew from the race in mid-April, but ballots had already been printed, and she received 4.2% of the vote.
Ayala said she was “humbled and honored” to win the nomination. Speaking Tuesday night on Facebook Live, she highlighted gun control measures, increased teacher pay and a need to expand access to health care.
“I’m at a loss of words for the first time in my life,” she said. “We’re not going back. We’re going to continue to go forward.”
Ayala’s victory ensures that Virginia will have its first minority woman in statewide office after November’s general election, because she will face Republican Winsome Sears, an African-American. Ayala is Afro-Latina.
The only woman ever elected to statewide office in Virginia was Mary Sue Terry, who was elected attorney general in 1985 and re-elected in 1989.
Sears, a Winchester businessman originally from the Hampton Roads area and a former member of the House of Delegates, was chosen by Republicans in an unassembled convention last month using ranked-choice voting.
Ayala has represented the Woodbridge-based 51st District in the House since 2017, when she defeated long-time Republican incumbent Rich Anderson. She held off Anderson in 2019 to win re-election but is not running for the seat this year.
She is the first Afro-Latina elected to the General Assembly and serves as chief deputy whip for the Democratic caucus in the House.
Ayala was endorsed by Gov. Ralph Northam and some top Democratic legislative leaders in late April. However, she was criticized late in the campaign for accepting a $100,000 donation from Dominion Energy’s political action committee after previously promising not to take Dominion money. She had also already received $25,000 from anti-Dominion advocacy group Clean Virginia, which was founded by Charlottesville investor Michael Bills and makes donations explicitly to counter what it sees as Dominion’s outsized influence in the state legislature, according to the Virginia Mercury.
Rasoul was first elected to the House of Delegates in a special election in 2014 and was re-elected in 2015, 2017, and 2019. He is one of only two Muslims in the Virginia General Assembly. He is also running for re-election to his House seat this fall, so if elected lieutenant governor he will resign that seat.
Rasoul led the lieutenant governor candidates in fund-raising, with about $1.8 million raised through the end of May, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project. Levine was second with a little over $1.3 million, although most of his funds were in the form of personal loans from the candidate.
Ayala raised just over $1 million, while McClellan raised about $900,000.
Virginia’s lieutenant governor is a part-time position. The primary official duty is to serve as president of the State Senate, voting only when necessary to break a tie. However, the lieutenant governor is first in the line of succession to the governor and is seen as a stepping stone to the state’s top office. The current lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, ran for governor this year but finished fourth out of five candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination.