Here at FFL, we admire women who shatter glass ceilings and pave the way for women. Winsome Sears has one of the longest list of firsts this author has ever seen: first Black Republican woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, first female veteran, and first female naturalized citizen. She’s looking to add one more first to the list — first Black female Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Last week, FFL sat down with Sears to learn more about her story and her priorities ahead of the 2021 election.

Sears was born in Jamaica and grew up in the Bronx in New York City. Her interest in politics comes from her grandmother, who was a precinct captain in Jamaica. She said that her family always discussed local politics and she was well versed in civic engagement growing up. “I always thought I’d be a campaign manager or work somewhere behind the scenes; I never thought I’d actually be a candidate.” She served as a United States Marine and was the director of a women’s homeless shelter before running for office.

In 2001, Sears upset a 20-year incumbent to represent a majority-minority district that includes parts of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Sears served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002 to 2004. She was unsuccessful in the 2004 VA-03 election and returned to the private sector. During her political hiatus, she was nominated to be the Vice President of the Virginia State Board of Education and received presidential appointments to the U.S. Census Bureau and the  Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“Either curse the darkness or light a candle. If you don’t like what you see, then you have to do something,” she said of her return to politics after almost two decades. While she served in the Virginia State Board of Education, she saw school test grades decline without anyone taking action. The point that spurred her to action was seeing that over 80% of black children aren’t proficient in math by the 8th grade. “It is time for school choice, whether it’s home school, charter school, or private school.”

When asked about what surprised her on the campaign trail, she said “Finding out that there are a lot of Democrats and Independents that want change. They want to know who is going to work for us and who is willing to buck the system to get things done.” For example, she spoke to a voter earlier in the week about the foster care system in Virginia, calling the system “broken” and that cases fall through the cracks. “There’s no accountability for when things go wrong.”

She also spoke about the importance of women getting involved in politics. “If you care about your community, you need to get involved. You need to support candidates and speak about your experiences. You have value and worth as a woman.. Be bold, be strong, and be courageous. Fight your way in and through because you have a purpose. You can bring a different perspective to conversations and you shouldn’t limit yourself from the beginning.”

You can learn more about Winsome and donate to her campaign on her campaign website. Voting in Virginia starts September 17th and runs through Election Day on November 2nd. 

Jillian K