Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, a Republican, says she wants to help her state move on from its slave-holding history.
On Saturday, Winsome Sears was sworn in as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, making her the first Black woman to occupy a statewide office in the state.
In the state that formerly held the Confederacy’s capital, the 57-year-old Republican and former state senator is also the second Black person to serve as second in command, replacing Democrat Justin Fairfax.
Sears will become president of the Virginia state senate and the first in the line of succession to Virginia’s new governor, Republican Glenn Youngkin, who was also sworn on Saturday afternoon.
After her swearing-in ceremony outside the state government building in Richmond, Sears hugged the state’s new governor and waved to the crowd without saying anything to them.
Sears, a Marine Corps veteran who relocated to New York with her family when she was six years old, is a Jamaican native. Her campaign for lieutenant governor in Virginia was centered on creating well-paying jobs, cutting taxes, and improving education.
She’s also suggested that Youngkin form a Black Virginians advisory council and make a “once-in-a-generation” investment in HBCUs. This is in addition to a proposal to open ten wealth-starting incubators in Black areas around the state to encourage entrepreneurship.
Sears is also a staunch defender of the Second Amendment and opposes gun control legislation. Last May, a campaign poster depiction of her brandishing a semiautomatic gun sparked outrage and made national headlines.
Sears recently told NPR that she wants to assist her state to overcome its slave-holding history in a country that, in her opinion, refuses to let go of its racial 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 victories for Republican operatives attempting to break into a Black demographic voting block that has consistently voted for Democrats in statewide and national elections.
According to NPR, Sears’ accomplishment as a military veteran, business owner, and political politician demonstrates that America has come a long way on racial issues. She’s also targeted Democrats, who, in the opinion of many Republicans, have used race as a tool to court favor with African-Americans.