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Democrat Hala Ayala Launches Campaign for Lt. Governor

Ayala speaks at a press conference
Hala Ayala at a press conference in 2018 (Craig Carper/VPM News)

Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William), a cybersecurity expert and two-term lawmaker, announced her bid for lieutenant governor on Tuesday.

The federal Department of Homeland Security employee said access to healthcare is a central issue for her campaign. Her experience with coverage costs, she said, helps her understand the struggles of everyday Virginians.

Medicaid expansion was key to her campaign message when Ayala won her Northern Virginia House of Delegates seat in 2017. 

Twice - including during a pregnancy - Ayala’s relied on Medicaid. She says she wept when the General Assembly passed expansion in 2018.

“I was so proud,” Ayala said. “Because I knew what it was like to fear if my son got sick or if I got sick. What did that mean for us?”

The Afro-Latina recalled worrying about medical bills while she was an hourly wage worker with no benefits.

Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William), a Peruvian immigrant who represents a nearby district, also has been laying the groundwork for a run.

Either candidate would be the first woman and the first Latina to hold the job if they win. The current lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax, is planning to run for governor.

The lieutenant governor is a part-time role focused on presiding over the work of the state Senate. Because Democrats hold a one-person majority in the chamber, Fairfax cast a handful of tie-breaking votes on issues including expanded access to abortion. 

Ayala said she was adept at building consensus as deputy House whip, a role that requires her to corral key votes from Democratic lawmakers. She added that her Homeland Security job responding to the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina equipped her to lead during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

State government responses, she said, should factor in the need for broadband internet service throughout the commonwealth. 

“We need to make sure that we have that everyone who needs access has access,” Ayala said. “And this means having the expertise to have these discussions.”