In memoir LG Earle-Sears reflects on faith, politics, and journey as a … – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears made history two years ago when she became Virginia’s second woman — and first Black woman — elected to statewide office.

In her newly published memoir — “How Sweet It Is!”— she reflects on her life and her evolution in faith and politics.

It wasn’t easy to reflect on some of the hardships along the way — from losing a home to foreclosure after an old Marine Corps back injury flared up, leaving her unable to work, to a far greater loss, when her oldest daughter and two grandchildren were killed in a 2012 car crash.

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“It’s very hard because it’s a life of tragedy, of rising from the ashes, but I think also a life of hope,” she told The Times Dispatch in an interview ahead of the book’s publication.

Earle-Sears, who was born in Jamaica, writes that when she was 18 in 1982, the death of her grandmother had her feeling hopeless and directionless before she joined the U.S. Marines — setting her on a path to becoming a naturalized citizen who would later run for and win elected office.

While in the Marines she trained to be an electrician and a diesel mechanic. She also gave birth to her first daughter, DeJon.

Virginia General Assembly

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears is shown during the first day of Virginia General Assembly at Virginia state Capitol in Richmond on Jan. 11, 2023.

Juggling her military career as a young single mom was a triumph and struggle. Once was out of the Marine Corps, she gained a supportive husband, Terence Sears, a Marine Corps officer, who adopted DeJon. The couple would have two additional daughters.

In a richly eclectic career outside politics, Earle-Sears would work as director of a homeless shelter, sell used cars, work as a program manager for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, serve as CEO of the Blue Ridge Association of Realtors, own and operate an appliance repair, plumbing and electric company and write a book called “Stop Being a Christian Wimp!”

She served a two-year term in the House of Delegates after knocking off Del. Billy Robinson, D-Norfolk, a 20-year veteran, in 2001, to become the first Black female Republican elected to the House. In 2004, she took on Rep. Bobby Scott, D-3rd  but received just 31% of the vote.

Before her history making run for lieutenant governor in 2021, Earle-Sears served on the State Board of Education as an appointee of Gov. Bob McDonnell and mounted a 2018 write-in campaign for U.S. Senate, trying to offer an alternative to Republican nominee Corey Stewart. (Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., easily beat Stewart.)

Faith and tragedy

Earle-Sears is a devout Christian and she writes in the book about messages from God at key junctures in her life.

“God is a consuming fire for me,” Earle-Sears writes. “When He speaks to me, He speaks to me. I will not deny this.”

Her faith is a prominent part of her life and it comforted her when her eldest daughter, DeJon and two granddaughters, Victoria and Faith, died in the Fairfax County crash. Earle-Sears writes that her eldest daughter was bipolar and subject to “extreme highs and extreme lows” that got worse when she did not take her medication.

Earle-Sears writes that she and her husband had raised the grandchildren for nearly seven years. Once DeJon “seemed permanently stable,” Earle-Sears writes that she wanted the children to stay mostly with their mother, as she did not want to come between DeJon and her young children. The children went to live with their mother in early 2011.

Reflecting on the 2012 tragedy, she writes: “You ask yourself: ‘What could I have done? What could I have done? I just did not comprehend how bad it was.”


Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears looks up at the gallery as visitors are introduced during the floor session of the Virginia Senate at the state Capitol in Richmond,  Feb. 10, 2022.

The experience also drove home the importance of mental health reforms, she said, pointing to efforts the state has made in recent years to expand resources for patients and workers in the field.

“Nothing is perfect, but it’s a start,” she said.

Her memoir oscillates between personal, professional and spiritual as Earle-Sears recounts key points in her life where she faced struggles or personal and professional growth.

At times it also takes the tone of a self-help book as Earle-Sears offers readers encouragement on education, work ethic, and Christian devotion.

Earle-Sears writes that her service in the Marine Corps reinforced a lesson she had already learned from her family: “There is no such thing as ‘can’t.’ “

At another point she advises readers on taking an active part in developing their skills. “Life waits for no one,” she writes. “Either you are ready or you are not.”

She recounts a childhood and adolescence spent between Jamaica and America. Her mother remained in her home country while her father immigrated to New York in 1963 amid the push for equal rights in a segregated America.

“Defending the American Dream” is the secondary title to Earle-Sears’ memoir and throughout the book, she stresses how education can “lift people from poverty.” She cites her father’s immigration story as an example — he came to America with $1.75 she said, and went on to become a mechanic and welder for airline Pan Am. He worked on jet engines at JFK airport in New York. Her father is now comfortably retired in Georgia.

There are times things haven’t been easy, but she said: “I just want my life to be an encouragement.”

Here are a few other takeaways from Earle-Sears’ memoir:

A ‘Trekkie’:

A self-described “huge Star Trek fan,” she recalls seeing herself in the character of Lt. Uhura, a communications officer on the Enterprise — not just because she was a Black woman on television in the late 1960s, but also because the Black and female character played a prominent role in the fictional crew.

Earle-Sears appreciates the gender parity the various “Star Trek” shows and movies have demonstrated, and it’s something she believes she experienced herself in the U.S. Marines.

Plus, Uhura was a character known for her intelligence. Education has been a lifelong passion for Earle-Sears, who has degrees from Tidewater Community College, Old Dominion University and Regent University.

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On education:

Earle-Sears remembers excelling at her courses when she moved to America as a child.

“There were no ‘nerds’ back in Jamaica,” she writes. “We were all competitive bookworms.”

A thirst for education continued in her adulthood as she learned trade skills while serving in the U.S. Marines, and juggled earning college degrees as a working mother.

During her term as a state delegate, she pushed for charter schools — and school choice is a cause that she and Gov. Glenn Youngkin continue to champion.

Earle-Sears school choice

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, speaks about House Bill 1508, introduced by Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach. The bill would have expand school choice in Virginia by allocating a portion of state funds for parents to use for private school tuition or other education costs.

As Democrats have argued for more investment in K-12 public education more broadly, Earle-Sears supported a bill from Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach that would have created a voucher system for parents to send their children to a school of their choice. She hopes the bill can succeed in the future.

“(Parents) don’t want to be limited by their ZIP code,” Earle-Sears said in the interview.

A Black Republican

Earle-Sears writes that she had long assumed she was a Democrat, having spent a good portion of her youth in New York, where that political alignment was common. When she was in her early 20s, she began to pay more attention to politics and the role the government played in people’s lives.

During Vice President George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, his conservative stances on lowering taxes and reducing abortions appealed to Earle-Sears.

She writes that the political turning point in her life came when she heard Bush say: “If all you ever have is welfare, you will never have anything to pass on to your children.”

It stood out to the young mother.

“I felt my soul agreeing with him,” she writes. “It is our duty to do more for our children. With welfare, we possess only up to the limits of the government’s checks.”


Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears reacts to a comment during the April reconvened session at the state Capitol.

She writes that it was an epiphany: “I said to myself: ‘Oh my God, I’m a Republican.”

She jokes now that her daughters now call her “cheap” and she calls herself “frugal.”

As she is a firm believer in the American Dream ethos — that hard work is the key path to prosperity — she writes that the Republican Party started to confirm her approach to life.

As she got more involved in local and regional politics, she writes that she initially wanted to work behind the scenes.

“I never particularly wanted to be a politician,” she writes. “I wanted to be the person behind the politician. But God had other plans.”

By 2021, she had become frustrated by two Democratic administrations, the Blackface scandals during Gov. Ralph Northam’s term, and the Northam administration’s COVID-19 policies such as school closures and restrictions on businesses and churches.

(At the time of her campaign, Earle-Sears refused to disclose her vaccination status during her campaign, but she did encourage people to get vaccinated). 

Earle-Sears topped five rivals to win the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor then edged Democrat Hala Ayala in the general election.

Earle-Sears writes in the book that Moses returned after 40 years and that she returned after nearly 20 years out of elective office.

“Just call me ‘Little Mo.’ “

Throughout the book Earle-Sears chafes against expectations that Black voters should be Democrats.

“Not all feel this way, but some Black Democrats have appointed themselves leaders over us, and if you don’t keep in line, then they are going to cast you out,” she writes. “Well, too late. It’s a healthy thing for Black people to be on both sides of the political spectrum.”

Early in the book, Earle-Sears writes that as a Black woman in the former capital of the Confederacy she is proud to stand as “second in command” in a state that gave rise to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

“I am a Virginian,” she writes.

The phrase recalls the closing line from the inaugural address of the nation’s first elected Black governor. In January 1990 L. Douglas Wilder had proclaimed: “I am a son of Virginia.”

In November 2022, two days after the GOP failed to make sweeping gains in Congress, Earle-Sears publicly broke with former President Donald Trump, telling Fox Business that it was time for the GOP to move on.

In the book she reflects on her stint as national chairwoman of Black Americans to Re-elect the President PAC.

“You had to think, well, even if you don’t like the man’s personality, he’s getting the job done,” she writes. “We wish that he had just kept quiet.”

Earle-Sears writes that while she backed many of Trump’s policies, she could not countenance his personal insults toward others.

She also condemns the rioting by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 in an effort to block Vice President Mike Pence from certifying the election results.

“I did not agree with those methods whatsoever,” Earle-Sears writes, “and I thought the people engaged in them were unhinged.”

In sum, she writes: “For the good of the nation, I do not think he should run again in 2024.”

The campaign trail gun photo:

In the book Earle-Sears refers to a 2021 campaign photo in which she holds an assault-style weapon.

It was not staged, she asserts but stemmed from an impromptu campaign trail stop at Clark Brothers Range in Warrenton when she was en route to another event.

“I put on a green coat to keep the spent gunpowder blowback off my blouse,” she writes. “When you look at the photo taken there, you can see that I still have my earplugs in. Nothing staged there.”

She did go on to post a series of photos to Twitter with a promise to not support red flag laws — which are when courts can grant temporary orders to remove firearms from people who appear to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Meanwhile, the Twitter images went viral. To her supporters, it was a clear demonstration of her promise to support gun access. It also drew pushback from advocates and legislators (mostly Democrats) who advocate for restrictions aimed at public safety.

On whether she will run for governor:

Earle-Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares are often mentioned as likely candidates for the GOP nomination for governor in 2025.

Will she run? No solid answer just yet.

As Youngkin has said when asked if he will run for president, Earle-Sears asserts she is focused on this year’s General Assembly elections.


In January 2022, Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, the first woman to hold the office — and the first Black woman elected to statewide office — pounds the gavel for her session presiding over the state Senate.

“What I’ve been consumed with since (the 2023 legislative session) was over is winning back the Senate,” she said.

Republicans currently have a majority in the House of Delegates, while the Democrats have the majority in the Senate — where Earle-Sears presides.

All 140 seats are up for grabs in November. with a handful of competitive districts key to each party holding the line or gaining the majority of each chamber. 

Both parties push for early and absentee voting — the Democrats with Project Majority and the Republicans with Secure Your Vote Virginia. Earle-Sears ended her chat with The-Times Dispatch with a familiar call to action.

“We have to win absentee ballots, we have Secure Your Vote,” she said. “We believe in our system. We have a great voting record here and we’ve just got to increase it.”

The Republican presidential candidates vying to be the leading alternative to front-runner Donald Trump fought — sometimes bitterly – over abortion rights, U.S. support for Ukraine and the future of the party during the first primary debate of the 2024 campaign. But on what is arguably the most consequential choice facing the party, virtually all lined up behind Trump, saying they would support the former president if he is their nominee, even if he is convicted in a series of cases. It was a reminder of the power Trump continues to wield in the party, even as he chose to skip the debate.

Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have dominated the Republican presidential nomination fight for much of the year, but neither dominated the debate stage. Trump skipped the GOP’s opening presidential primary debate Wednesday night. DeSantis showed up but was overshadowed for much of the night by political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy. Ramaswamy has crept up in recent polls, leading to his position next to DeSantis at center stage. And Ramaswamy quickly showed why when he showcased his ready-for-video, on-message approach. Ramaswamy’s rivals attacked him for his lack of political experience and his view that the U.S. should stop supporting Ukraine.

With the first 2024 Republican presidential debate in the books, the focus is turning to the early front-runner’s pending surrender to authorities at an Atlanta jail. Former President Donald Trump is expected to make a historic first on Thursday, becoming the first former U.S. president to have a mug shot taken. He is surrendering on charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the state. Regardless, his criminal proceedings played little role in Wednesday’s debate, with six of his eight rivals on the stage saying they would still support him if he wins the 2024 GOP nomination.

Donald Trump skipped the debate stage typically relished by presidential candidates on Wednesday and instead appeared in an online interview peppered with his election lies, attacks on his rivals and lavish praise for the crowd of supporters he spoke to before they stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump, who has brushed aside democratic norms and embraced the inflammatory throughout his political career, said he was sitting out the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee because his poll numbers showed him far ahead of his rivals. Instead, he used a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson to make his case that everyone but him is irrelevant.

Donald Trump has hired a new lead attorney for his Georgia case as he’s set to surrender on charges he schemed to overturn the 2020 election in the state. Prominent Atlanta criminal defense attorney Steve Sadow says in a Thursday court filing he’ll be lead counsel. Trump’s booking process is expected to yield a historic first: a mug shot of a former American president. Trump’s surrender comes the day after a presidential debate featuring his leading rivals for the 2024 Republican nomination, a contest in which he remains the early front-runner despite accelerating legal troubles. Trump’s presence in Georgia is expected to swipe the spotlight anew from his opponents.

Rudy Giuliani has surrendered to authorities in Georgia to face an indictment alleging he acted as former President Donald Trump’s chief co-conspirator in a plot to subvert the 2020 election. The former New York City mayor is charged with Trump and 17 other people under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The 79-year-old Giuliani is accused of spearheading Trump’s efforts to compel state lawmakers in Georgia and other closely contested states to illegally appoint electoral college electors favorable to Trump. After his booking, on $150,000 bond, second only to Trump’s $200,000, Giuliani called his case “a fight for our way of life.”

Russian state news agency Tass says the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained on espionage charges, has been extended to Nov. 30. Gershkovich arrived at the Moscow court in a prison van and was led handcuffed out of the vehicle. A 31-year-old United States citizen, Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg while on a reporting trip in late March. He and his employer deny the allegations, and the U.S. government declared him to be wrongfully detained. Russian authorities have not provided any evidence to support the espionage charges.

Business these days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is still good — just not as robust as it was after the U.S. economy roared out of the pandemic recession. As the Federal Reserve prepares to hold its annual economic conference there, its policymakers are trying to guide the nation’s economy toward something akin to what’s happening in Jackson Hole. They have jacked up their key interest rate to a 22-year high to try to slow growth and bring inflation down to their 2% target. Even as they do so, the Fed’s policymakers hope to avoid tipping the economy into a recession — a notoriously difficult achievement that economists call a “soft landing.”

Authorities say three people were killed and several others were wounded in a shooting at a Southern California biker bar. The gunman is believed to have been a retired law enforcement officer and was also killed by deputies. The shooting occurred Wednesday evening at Cook’s Corner in rural Trabuco Canyon in Orange County. It has long been a popular watering hole for motorcyclists. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department says the gunman was dead within minutes of the first reports of the shooting. Six others were taken to a hospital. The hospital says two were in critical condition. Five had gunshot wounds.

Tropical Storm Franklin is unleashing heavy floods and landslides in the Dominican Republic after making landfall in the country’s southern region. The Civil Defense agency said the storm killed one person on Wednesday. The storm began to slowly spin away from the island of Hispaniola that the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti after dumping heavy rain for several hours. Forecasters say Franklin could dump up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain, with as much as 16 inches for Hispaniola’s central region. Officials are most concerned about the storm’s impact in Haiti, which is vulnerable to catastrophic flooding because of severe erosion from deforestation.

Temperatures are soaring in the central U.S., leading to deaths and damage. A National Weather Service official says more dangerous heat is expected this week. The harsh heat wave has led to deaths, broken records, damaged Texas roads and water lines, and evacuated a nursing home. Some cities are bracing for triple digit temperatures through August. Louisiana officials say there have been 25 heat-related deaths this summer. In Nebraska, a 1-year-old left in a hot van died. The weather service official says the brunt of the enduring heat has hit states from Florida to New Mexico.

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