The outcome of the recent election on November 7, 2017, was full of firsts, including the first Latinas to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Elizabeth Guzmán and Hala Ayala made history by being the first Hispanic women to be elected to this position in the state of Virginia. Their victories contributed to switching their respective districts from Republican to Democrat.
Ayala defeated her opponent, Republican Richard Anderson, who ran unopposed in 2015. She won by six percentage points and brought out 14,000 voters to win. Guzmán had a similar victory as well. She increased voter turnout in her community by 72 percent and won by a nine-point margin.
Despite their opponents and current officeholders running campaigns against immigrants, both Ayala and Guzmán won comfortably. Ayala told a reporter during her campaign that she believed President Donald Trump and his administration would “discriminate against people who look like me.”
“The Virginia campaign sends a very clear message that building your campaign around anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-black messages does not work,” said Matt Barreto, a professor at UCLA and polling analyst of Latino Decisions. “We saw this before with Sharron Angle in Nevada and Tom Tancredo in Colorado, who failed miserably in their anti-immigrant crusade.”
Guzmán, who left Peru as a single mother and high school graduate looking to make a better life for her daughter, is a public administrator with a background in social work. Her platform included expanded preschool and family and health services, including mental health, and more accessibility to these services in local schools.
Ayala is a cybersecurity specialist who helped organize the historic Women’s March, as well as founding and serving as president of her local chapter of the National Organization for Women. Also, familiar with being a single mother, her platform included She has fought for raising the minimum wage, equal pay and affordable access to health care.
In a statement, Ayala said, “I built my campaign on the promise of fair and equal representation of our community, in all of its wonderful diversity. I intend to make sure Richmond hears our local voices, especially as we fight to improve our schools, work toward long-term solutions to reduce traffic congestion and ensure affordable health care to those in need.”