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Lt Governor Fairfax and Lt Governor-elect Sears meet for the first time

Election 2021 Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears
Andrew Harnik/AP
Lt. Gov. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears arrives to speak before Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin at an election night party in Chantilly, Va., early Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, after he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Before the Governor’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates met, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax approached Lt Governor-elect Winsome Sears, and shook hands.

Sears summed up what their back to back victories meant.

"From a Black Lieutenant governor to another Black Lieutenant governor... in both parties!" said Sears. "I want us to have a seat at the table no matter who is in charge."

Sears is the first woman of color to be elected to statewide office in Virginia. In 2021 there were only 18 women of color in statewide office in the US, three of whom are Republican.

Fairfax was the second Black Virginian to be elected to statewide office, after Governor Douglas Wilder who was first elected to Lieutenant Governor in 1987.

"I think there's a lot of pride, really I think among all Virginians, that you can have two African-Americans, the first African-American woman now, to hold statewide office. It shows that we're committed to excellence and to diversity," he said.

Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor presides over the state senate, and casts a vote in case of a tie.

In January the Governor’s Mansion and House of Delegates shifts to Republican control. Lieutenant Governor-elect Sears will preside over a narrow Democratic Majority in the senate, so narrow that any single defection would give Sears the decisive vote for a Republican policy proposal.

Fairfax has broken 52 ties while he’s been in office.

Sears said she has studied Fairfax's work through archival video of the senate.

"He's given me the tricks of the trade and it behooves me to hear how he handled himself when he was there. And I've been watching him. So I have the benefit of that."

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.