Republican Winsome E. Sears, a 1992 graduate of Old Dominion University, was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia on Tuesday.
She will become the first woman and first woman of color to serve in that position - but not the first Monarch. Two graduates of the Norfolk College of William & Mary, Republican Mills Godwin and Democrat Henry Howell, also were elected lieutenant governor, and Godwin later became governor.
Sears joins two other Republicans who won statewide office: Glenn Youngkin will be Virginia's next governor, and Jason Miyares will serve as attorney general.
"What you're looking at is the American dream," she told supporters Tuesday night during her acceptance speech.
Sears, 57, was born in Jamaica and came to the United States with her family when she was 6. She worked as an electrician in the Marines and received an associate degree from Tidewater Community College, a bachelor's from Old Dominion in English and a master's in organizational leadership from Regent University.
Sears ran for public office for the first time in 2001 and defeated 20-year incumbent Democrat William P. "Billy" Robinson Jr. for the 90th District seat in the House of Delegates. She became the first African American female Republican to serve in the General Assembly.
She chose not to seek re-election and in 2004 lost to Democrat Bobby Scott for the 3rd District seat in the U.S. House. The defeat, she said in an interview with The Virginian-Pilot, taught her to "be fearless. You realize, just be real. Don't be handled."
Sears left politics and became the owner of a plumbing, electrical and appliance-repair business in Winchester. "However," her campaign website said, "Winsome is most proud of her community work leading a men's prison ministry and as director of a women's homeless shelter for The Salvation Army." Sears also previously serviced as vice president of the Virginia Board of Education.
She returned to politics, she said, to expand the Republican base: "I have a strategy to win those votes. In fact, I helped use that strategy to bring in voters who are not of this fold, and I worked with that strategy, and I look like that strategy."
During the campaign, she advocated for tax cuts, gun rights and increased school choice, among other positions.
The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate, where Democrats hold a 21-19 majority, and can cast a tie-breaking vote. It also has served as a springboard to run for governor.
"What we are going to do now," Sears said Tuesday night, "is be about the business of the commonwealth. 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."