Republican Lt. Gov. candidate Winsome Sears acknowledges Republican Party hits ceiling in state, outreach to new voters needed

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -The Republican lieutenant governor candidate acknowledges the Republican Party needs to expand its outreach to new voters to win in November.

Winsome Sears says the ticket needs to focus on messaging on issues like education and criminal justice reform that will resonate with Black and Hispanic voters, but she also says she has no plans to moderate in a state becoming increasingly progressive.

“We’re going to be making the case to everyone. We’re not assuming anything. We’re going to show up our base and we’re going to go get new customers,” she said.

Sears emigrated from Jamaica at age 6. She became the first Black Republican woman elected to the Virginia Assembly in 2002 and is now running to be the state’s next Lieutenant Governor.

“We want safe schools, we want opportunities for all, we want safe neighborhoods. What is there to moderate? It’s just that we haven’t been getting the message out in the way that we probably needed to,” she said.

Sears says she plans to highlight ways she says President Trump and Republicans improved people’s lives including the former president’s criminal justice reform work in signing the First Step Act. Running too closely to Trump may prove dangerous as a recent Christopher Newport University poll says a majority of Virginians say Trump is worse than other past presidents,” Sears said.

“Donald Trump, this president, let me tell you what else he did. He forgave $360 million that the historically Black colleges and niversities owed to the federal government ever since Katrina days. Additionally, he provided for the first time ever permanent funding streams for these same historically Black colleges and universities that in fact President Obama had reduced substantially,” she said.

Sears also recently drew controversy over a campaign sign of her holding a rifle. It may also alienate voters. A December 2019 survey by the Wason Center at CNU says a slim majority of Virginians support banning assault style weapons.

“I’m a Marine. I know how to use that weapon. We are trained on those weapons,” Sears said.

While there are two Black women running to be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, that primary is still weeks away. Sear’s victory in the Republican convention gives her an opportunity to make history as the first Black women elected to statewide office in Virginia.

“Making history doesn’t really mean anything if it doesn’t help others. It’s a history for me, but it doesn’t help anyone. When all is said and done, what did you do with it? So that’s what it is for me,” Sears said.

As for her future if she wins, Sears says the natural progression is governor, but right now she’s focused on winning this race.

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