Winsome Sears becomes first woman of color elected as Virginia’s lieutenant governor

Republican Winsome Sears made history Tuesday night when she became Virginia’s first woman of color elected as lieutenant governor.

READ MORE: Republican Glenn Youngkin claims victory in Virginia governor’s race

Sears – a Marine veteran – and newly elected governor Glenn Youngkin are thwarting a trend in the Commonwealth away from the GOP.

Sears defeated Democrat Hala Ayala in Tuesday’s election. Sears rocketed out of political obscurity to win the GOP nomination on the strength of a campaign photo in which she posed holding a military rifle. 

"I'm telling you that what you are looking at is the American dream," Sears said during her victory speech, according to Fox News.

"When I joined the Marine Corps, I was still a Jamaican. But this country had done so much for me, I was willing, willing, to die for this country," Sears said during her victory speech early Wednesday morning. 

Sears was greeted by chants of "Winsome, Winsome," and "USA."

READ MORE: Terry McAuliffe concedes Virginia governor’s race to Glenn Youngkin

Sears defeated Democrat Hala Ayala in Tuesday's election. Ayala also would have been the first female lieutenant governor and first woman of color to hold statewide office if she had won.

Tuesday night, at a Republican party attended by both Youngkin and Sears, supporters were upbeat, singing, waving signs and starting to dance. While the watch party had yet to erupt in a victory celebration, there was enough volume and movement to make the floor of the second-floor ballroom shake occasionally.

Democrats, on the other hand, cleared out quickly from a joint party with statewide candidates after McAuliffe made an appearance and simply stated that votes still remained to be counted without claiming victory or conceding defeat.

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Jurisdictions throughout the state reported high turnout, with roughly 3.3 million ballots tallied by 3 a.m. Wednesday. That greatly exceeded the 2.6 million ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election in 2017, which itself was a high turnout year. The turnout in 2017 was in part a backlash to Donald Trump’s 2016 election. Democrats swept all three statewide elections in 2017.

Republicans have struggled in Virginia over the past decade — Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009. But all three Republican candidates this year are threatening to break that streak.

Both the attorney general and the lieutenant governor posts have served as launching pads to the governor's mansion. Half of the past 10 lieutenant governors in Virginia have gone on to be governor. The previous nine elected attorneys general all ran for governor.

The Associated Press and Fox News contributed to this story