Virginia Lt. Gov.-Elect Sears: 'I Look Like the Strategy' to Attract Black GOP Voters

Winsome Sears speaking at a press conference.
Virginia Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears addresses the Virginia FREE Leadership Luncheon in McLean, Va. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Winsome Sears, Virginia's incoming lieutenant governor, says she looks "like the strategy" behind getting Black voters to become Republicans, and insists that if Democrats want to talk about race, then "let's talk about it."

"The only way to change things is to win elections," Sears, who in November became Virginia's first Black woman elected to statewide office, told The New York Times for an interview published Monday. "And who better to help make that change but me? I look like the strategy."

Sears first appeared on the political scene 20 years ago, when she won a legislative seat in an upset election but disappeared from politics after serving just one term except for in 2018 when she announced a write-in protest against the then-GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate.

But this year, Sears defeated two veteran lawmakers to win the GOP nomination, and she'll take office on Jan. 15 along with Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, whose own election shook up politics and was seen as a harbinger of Republicans regaining control of the U.S. government in the 2022 midterms. 

Sears, a strong conservative and an immigrant from Jamaica, is also a strong backer of former President Donald Trump and told The Times during an interview with her transition team that the "message is important, but the messenger is equally important."

There is a difference of opinion on whether Sears is leading a political realignment that will change partisan identification where race is concerned, or whether her election is, as Democrats are saying, because she attracted GOP voters in a Republican year. 

However, Sears says that many Black and immigrant voters already side with her party on many issues, whether or not they realize it. 

She says she realized after listening to the 1988 presidential campaign and debates over abortion and welfare, that she was a Republican. 

Sears, 57, moved when she was 6 years old from Jamaica to the Bronx to be with her father, who had come to the United States to seek work. She joined the U.S. Marine Corps while still a teenager and learned to be a diesel mechanic before becoming a single mother when she was 21. 

About a dozen years later passed before Sears, then married and the mother of three, began her political career after having run a homeless shelter and gone to graduate school. 

She ran in 2001 for the Virginia House of Delegates against incumbent Billy Robinson Jr., a Democrat who had held the seat from Norfolk for 20 years and whose father had held that same seat before him. 

But weeks before the election, Robinson was in jail overnight for a contempt of court charge and Sears defeated him in the election. 

Sears didn't seek reelection but ran and lost her bid for the U.S. House of Representatives against Democrat Rep. Bobby Scott, who still holds that seat. At that time, Sears said she was "done with politics."

But this year, Sears said she decided to reenter politics because she saw the candidates and thought her party would lose again because "nobody was going to reach out to the various communities that needed to be heard from: women, immigrants, you know, Latinos, Asians, Blacks, etc.”

She stood out as being the furthest right of the three Republicans that had been nominated for statewide office, as she favors strict limits on abortion, advocates vouchers to help students pay for tuition to private schools, tighter restrictions on voting, and she is a strong opponent of gun control laws. 

Sears also insists that her politics are backed by Black history, including that Harriet Tubman had carried a gun. Sears further explains that she opposes COVID-19 vaccine mandates because of the Tuskegee experiments.


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