Opinion: Commentary: Supporting Hala Ayala for Lieutenant Governor

Opinion: Commentary: Supporting Hala Ayala for Lieutenant Governor

June begins next week, which means that the Democratic primary elections are right around the corner. Indeed, early voting is already well underway. And, in less than two weeks, polls will close at 7 p.m. on June 8, and we will have the Democratic nominees for the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, to join the three Republicans chosen last month for the General Election on November 2nd, when I will be running again too. Over the last several weeks in this newspaper, I have shared with you my choices for the next Governor (Sen. Jennifer McClellan) and Attorney General (Del. Jay Jones). This week, I would like to share my pick for our next Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia—Hala Ayala.

So what is a Lieutenant Governor’s role, anyway? Under the Constitution of Virginia, the Lieutenant Governor is first in the line of succession to Governor. If the Governor is unable to serve due to death, disqualification, or resignation, the Lieutenant Governor then becomes Governor. But the official role of the Lieutenant Governor is to serve as the President of the Senate and preside over the Senate during legislative sessions. Every day during the legislative session, the Lieutenant Governor can be seen on the dais running the procedures of the daily session, calling on Senators to speak, and initiating voting—much like the Speaker’s responsibilities on the House side. In a closely divided Senate, where one party or the other maintains a slim majority, the role of the Lieutenant Governor as a tie-breaker is crucial to blocking harmful legislation or ensuring that an important bill passes the Chamber. That is why we need an effective leader in this critical position.

My choice for who should pick up the baton as our next Lieutenant Governor is Delegate Hala Ayala. Hala is part of the ambitious and historic 2018 House of Delegates class, coming in after defeating her opponent, a four-term Republican, to represent the people of the 51st District in Richmond.

Hala’s very diverse ethnic background as an Afro-Latina, a single mother and daughter of a Salvadoran and North African immigrant father and an Irish and Lebanese mother, reflects the growing diversity of the Commonwealth and the people that call Virginia home. With Del. Elizabeth Guzman, Hala shares the distinction of being one of the first Latinas ever elected to the House of Delegates.

Hala is a longtime activist, having worked on the local PTA in Prince William County, organizing Democratic campaigns, serving on Governor McAuliffe’s Council on Women, and helping to organize the first annual Women’s March on Washington in 2017.

As a cybersecurity specialist at the Department of Homeland Security for 20 years, Hala worked to protect our nation’s information systems and prevent attacks on our national security. Her expertise in this field lends a unique perspective to issues facing our Commonwealth, and she serves well as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation and Vice Chair of the Communications, Technology and Innovation Committee. She has put forth much legislation during her two terms in office to protect the privacy and security of our information online, especially to protect vulnerable minors from exploitation. As our world becomes more and more digital and automated, it is crucial to ensure that our leaders not only understand the vulnerabilities of our systems, but also have the expertise to create solutions.

Delegate Ayala is a wonderful collaborator, always willing to work with her colleagues to compromise and pass meaningful, well-thought-out legislation. In fact, 100% of her introduced legislation passed during the 2021 session. Hala is a proud member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and serves in our caucus leadership as the Chief Deputy Whip. While I will miss her in the House of Delegates, I know that she will serve our Commonwealth with compassion and integrity as our Lieutenant Governor.

Hala Ayala is committed to our Democratic values, and in my view, she is the best candidate to take on the Republican nominee, Winsome Sears, in the November General Election.