Republican Winsome Sears, who held a 50,000-vote lead in her bid to become the first black woman lieutenant governor of Virginia, declared that she would “die for America” in a fiery victory speech early Wednesday morning, as supporters splashed photos of her posing with a rifle on social media.
“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, a Marine veteran, told a boisterous crowd in Chantilly, Va., before leading them in a chant of “USA.”
“I’m telling you that what you are looking at is the American dream,” Sears, a mother of three daughters, said.
Her opponent, Democrat Hala Ayala, also a woman of color, has yet to concede.
“In case you haven’t noticed, I am black and I have been black all my life, but that’s not what this is about,” Sears, 57, said.
“What we are going to do now is be about the business of the Commonwealth,” she continued. “We have things to tend to. We are going to fully fund our historically Black colleges and universities. We’re going to have safer neighborhoods, safer communities, and our children are going to get a good education.”
Sears noted her history-making achievement to make a plea for racial unity.
“There are some who want to divide, but we must not let that happen,” she said. “We have had a black president elected not once but twice and here I am, living proof.”
She also talked about the need for education, an issue Republican Glenn Youngkin rode to his stunning win over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Tuesday’s Virginia governor’s race.
“Education will lift us all out of poverty because we must have marketable skills so that our children can not just survive, but they want to create generational wealth. That’s what this is about,” she said.
Supporters linked to photos of Sears holding an assault style weapon on social media on Election Day.
Sears, a staunch supporter of Second Amendment gun rights, also used a photo where’s she’s holding a rifle on her campaign ads.
“Battle tested conservative. Semper Fi,” the ad said.
Sears was asked about posing with the weapon in a post-victory speech interview.
“Here’s the thing. Harriet Tubman carried a gun and if it was good enough for her, then it’s good enough for me. But here’s the other thing that most people don’t know, the gun confiscation laws were first against black people, you see, and so, we are entitled to have guns. It’s our Second Amendment right and we’re not giving them up,” she told 7 News ABC in Washington, DC.
Sears, who immigrated to the US from Jamaica when she was a child, became the first black Republican elected to the Virginia General Assembly, serving in the House of Delegates for one term from 2002 to 2004.
She went on to become the director of a Salvation Army homeless shelter and vice president of the Virginia Board of Education before making her return to politics this year.
Sears also was the national chairperson for Black Americans to Re-Elect President Trump.
In an interview later Wednesday on “Fox & Friends,” Sears credited her “ragtag staff” for helping her secure the win.
She said the campaign had little money and was outspent, “outgunned, if you will.”
Republicans look to take the top three spots in Virginia’s state government with the victories by Youngkin and Sears, as well as Jason Miyares, who holds a narrow lead over incumbent Mark Herring for attorney general.