Winsome Earle Sears' historic election as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia has won her the national spotlight as the first black woman to win statewide office in the Commonwealth.
The conservative Republican credits God with her long-shot victory as well as a life-long focus on education that translated into a winning issue with Virginia voters.
Sears was born in Kingston, Jamaica and followed her father to New York at age six with the hopes of a better life.
A few years later, the family decided the Jamaican schools were actually superior to Sears' educational experience in the U.S. and she began a pattern of returning to Jamaica for the school year while spending her summers in New York.
As a teenager, she joined the Marines, looking for discipline and a reason to live after the death of her beloved grandmother.
"I thought, 'That's what I need – the Marines,'" she told CBN News in a recent interview. "They will give me the discipline, and they will give me a reason to live, and sure enough they did. It was exactly what I needed at the time."
Sears served as an electrician and diesel mechanic before going on to earn a bachelor's degree from Old Dominion University and a master's degree in organizational leadership from Regent University.
She told CBN News she began following the Lord as a young mother, after a period of turbulence in her journey of faith.
"I just never knew how to 'stay saved' as they say. I kept falling away and coming back," she said. "I was kind of one of those people who every Sunday I was coming down the aisle to get saved because I wasn't ever discipled."
One Sunday morning, Sears says she stayed at home with her youngest daughter, despite the conviction that she should be in church.
"The light was streaming right through her," she recalled. "And I heard a voice say, 'She's going to grow up not knowing Me and she's going to blame you' – that was the Lord. And I said, 'No she's not,' and right then and there I looked for a church and I found the church right here – Calvary Revival. And that's where I was discipled and that's what started me on the path to being the person I now know."
Sears led a prison ministry and directed a women's shelter before sensing the call to run for political office in 2001. She ran against Democrat incumbent Billy Robinson and won the 90th district seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, making history as the first black Republican woman elected to the House, as well as the first female veteran and the first legal immigrant woman.
Sears says that campaign was an uphill climb all the way. "No one would give me any money and it was very hard," she said. "But we did everything we could. We did a lot of praying and we won. I say 'we' because I couldn't do it myself."
In 2004, Sears felt the call to run for Congress and challenged Rep. Bobby Scott (VA) unsuccessfully. She largely dropped out of politics and started a business as a trained electrician.
In 2021, she again sensed the Lord calling her to run for office, this time for lieutenant governor. In what she calls an "impossible, improbable campaign," she beat Democrat Hala Ayala for the statewide office.
Sears believes education was the most important issue for voters and says she'll focus as lieutenant governor on what she calls "parental school choice," better pay for teachers, and improving math and literacy skills for all children.
She's also an advocate for teaching school children about racism although she does not support Critical Race Theory (CRT), an academic concept that views racism as systemic. Virginia's new Gov. Glenn Youngkin banned teaching CRT in public schools on his first day in office.
"There is a way to teach it such that the white child isn't made to be the oppressor and the black child isn't made to feel that they're victims," she said.
"You have to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly and how do we progress from that?" she said. "We have a saying in church and it's, 'I may not be what I'm supposed to be but I ain't what I used to be.' And that's America. She may not be what she's supposed to be, but she ain't what she used to be. She's not 1963 when my father first came. And I'm proof of that."