Who is Hala Ayala? The Latina fighting to make history in Virginia as lieutenant governor
The longtime Delegate in Virginia’s House of Delegates recently received some major endorsements from the state’s biggest Democratic figures.
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Virginia may have their first Latina lieutenant governor if Del. Hala Ayala is elected in November.
Gov. Ralph Northam along with other state Democratic leaders have announced their endorsements for Ayala, which has given her campaign a major boost.
I am so grateful to be endorsed by my friend and colleague @KrizekForVA!! have had the pleasure of working closely with Paul during my time in the General Assembly and I have learned so much from his collaborative and thoughtful leadership. pic.twitter.com/Sci7zxEB9T— Hala Ayala (@HalaAyala) May 10, 2021
After Del. Elizabeth R. Guzman dropped out of the race earlier this month, Ayala is now the only Democratic candidate with a chance to make history not only as the state’s first woman to hold the position, but also the first person of Latin American heritage to hold a statewide office.
Ayala identifies as Afro-Latina, Lebanese, and Irish.
Northam, Speaker of the House Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, and House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, announced their endorsements on Monday, May 10, ahead of a scheduled press conference in Richmond that afternoon.
In a statement, Northam reflected on the “extraordinary progress” that Virginia has made during his time as governor, including health care expansions and criminal justice reforms.
“We need to continue building on that progress, and that’s why I am so excited to endorse Del. Hala Ayala for lieutenant governor,” Northam said.
Ayala has represented the 51st House of Delegates district in Prince William County since 2018. She is running in a Democratic primary field alongside five other candidates.
In a statement, Filler-Corn said that she supports Ayala for her tireless advocacy for “Virginians of every background.”
“She helped lead the fight to enact long overdue criminal justice reforms, raise the minimum wage, and legalize marijuana,” she said.
During Monday’s press conference, Ayala said she was honored to have such strong support from Northam and other Democratic leaders.
She applauded the governor’s leadership skills and all the progress that has improved the lives of millions of Virginians.
“His lasting legacy will be that of justice and equity,” she said.
Prior to winning her first election in 2017 by defeating a longtime Republican incumbent, Ayala was a community activist in Prince William County who assisted in the revival of the local Democratic Party committee, and helped mobilize residents to attend the district’s first Women’s March.
Northam commented on the voting and organizational power that women of color hold in the state, attributing these efforts to the shifting of certain counties from “red to purple, and from red to blue.”
Ayala also spoke about her personal story at Monday’s presser, which includes losing her father to gun violence and becoming a single mother without health insurance.
My father was murdered when I was 2 years old. My mom remarried an Air Force vet. So I know what responsible gun ownership looks like, as well as the devastation gun violence can cause. That’s why I'm determined to fight for common sense solutions to the gun violence epidemic.— Hala Ayala (@HalaAyala) May 8, 2021
“So many families are struggling right now in the wake of COVID. We need new leadership to bring Virginians together,” she said.
During her time in the House of Delegates, she followed through with many of her campaign promises, including the expansion of Medicaid, raising wages for educators, passing the Equal Rights Amendment, and increasing gun control.
If elected as lieutenant governor, Ayala plans to go deeper into healthcare, gun control, women’s rights, education, climate justice, jobs and more.
In mid-April, the candidate released her plans to tackle gun violence and protect Black mothers in healthcare outcomes.
Ayala released her plan to tackle gun violence on Friday, April 16, the 14-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, where 33 people were killed.
Her plan includes banning military-style assault weapons and “ghost guns,” preventing domestic abusers from accessing firearms, recognizing gun violence as a public health crisis and more.
Ayala’s plan to protect Black mothers and end racial disparities in healthcare outcomes was released during National Black Maternal Health Week.
Black women are twice as likely to suffer from life-threatening pregnancy complications, four times more likely to die giving birth, and nine times more likely to miscarry. The CDC has noted that 60% of these deaths are preventable.
Ayala’s plan includes implementing required bias training for healthcare providers, establishing pregnancy medical homes to connect high-risk women with health and social services, and creating a universal paid family leave program.