Winsome Sears sworn in as Virginia’s first Black woman lieutenant governor

Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears says she wants to help her state move on from its slaveholding legacy

Winsome Sears was officially sworn in as lieutenant governor of Virginia on Saturday, becoming the first Black woman ever to hold statewide office in the commonwealth.

The 57-year-old Republican and former state lawmaker is also the second Black person to serve as second in command, succeeding Democrat Justin Fairfax, in the state that housed the capital of the Confederacy.

The office makes Sears president of the Virginia state senate and first in the line of succession to Virginia’s new Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who was also sworn into office Saturday afternoon.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears, a Republican, is sworn into office outside the state capital building in Richmond, Virginia on Jan. 15, 2021. (Credit: Screen VPM on YouTube)

Sears hugged the state’s new governor and waved to people in the crowd without addressing them after her swearing-in ceremony outside the state capital building in Richmond.

Who is Winsome Sears?

Sears is a Marine Corps veteran originally from Jamaica who moved to New York with her family at age six. She focused her campaign for lieutenant governor on creating well-paying jobs, lowering taxes and improving education in Virginia.

She also has proposed creating a Black Virginians advisory cabinet for Youngkin and making a “once-in-a-generation” investment in HBCUs. That’s in addition to a proposal to launch 10 wealth-starting incubators to promote entrepreneurship in Black communities across the state.

Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears (via Twitter)

Sears is also an ardent Second Amendment supporter who opposes gun control measures. A campaign poster photo of her wielding a semiautomatic rifle raised eyebrows and made national headlines last May.

Sears recently told NPR she wants to help her state move on from its slaveholding legacy in a country that, in her view, seems unwilling to let go of its racist past.

“I’m from another country, another culture. But here I am. I see racism as one more hurdle in life,” Sears told the public radio non-profit. “Slavery happened, absolutely. And there are some vestiges of it. But how long are we going to go back there?”

Sears is one of the few recent successes for GOP operatives trying to build inroads into a Black demographic voting block that has overwhelmingly supported Democrats in statewide and national elections. Black voters have voted for Democrats in large numbers since President Lyndon B. Johnson, with pressure from Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, alienated many southern white voters by signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.

Sears told NPR her success as a military veteran, a business owner and an elected official is proof that America has come a long way on the issue of race. She has also taken aim at Democrats who in the view of many Republicans have weaponized the issue of race to curry favor with Black Americans.

“Go find another victim,” Sears told NPR. “Stop it. That’s what I say. And let’s move on.”

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