Home 2020 Elections UPDATED 3x: Del. Hala Ayala Fires Back at InsideNOVA Editorial Claiming Three...

UPDATED 3x: Del. Hala Ayala Fires Back at InsideNOVA Editorial Claiming Three Women of Color Need Lots More “Experience” Before Running Statewide

"Experience only seems to come into question when women, particularly women of color, run for higher office." 

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UPDATE Saturday am #3: Del. Elizabeth Guzman weighs in, says: “Inside NoVa said they would have said the same thing about me if I were a white man. But here’s the thing. There’s a white man running for lieutenant governor who has never held elected office. They didn’t question his qualifications. They didn’t insult him. ”

UPDATE Saturday am #2: Del. Danica Roem nails it!

UPDATE Saturday am: Here’s Democratic’ Party of Virginia Executive Director Andrew Whitley’s superb response to InsideNOVA’s drivel.

Over at InsideNOVA and the Sun Gazette, the editorial page posts right-wing nonsense pretty much every day. Just to give you a flavor, some recent editorial headlines include:

  • “Will FCPS abandon the community?”
  • “Eliminating school resource officers is lunacy”
  • “Will obstructionists prevent schools from reopening?”
  • “Arlington County Board dishonors itself” (because it “[asked] the Virginia Supreme Court to unilaterally override state law and order the special election to fill the seat of the late Erik Gutshall be held not in July, as the law mandates; not even in August, as would be allowable in the current emergency; but perhaps as late as the Nov. 3 general election, a delay that would have no basis in law whatsoever”)
  • Also, from October 2018: “Sun Gazette endorses Comstock for re-election” (over Democrat Jennifer Wexton, who went on to crush Comstock)
  • And from October 2017: “Sun Gazette endorsement: Gillespie will get Va. moving again” (over Democrat Ralph Northam, who crushed Gillespie)

Anyway, you get the idea where these folks are coming from. Which is why it isn’t surprising how absurd today’s editorial, “Experience Matters,” is. To summarize, according to the white, male, conservative InsideNOVA editorial page:

  • Three women of color – Del. Hala Ayala, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy – who all were first elected in 2017, and are now running for statewide offices in 2021 (Ayala and Guzman for Lt. Governor; Carroll Foy for governor) are singled out as “doing themselves a disservice by letting their ambition take charge,” as “they are newcomers to public life and to state politics…[and] are barely known locally, let alone statewide.”
  • According to the editorial, “They need to lead committees in the General Assembly and successfully carry significant pieces of challenging legislation.    They need to develop and demonstrate expertise in policy issues, both local and statewide, not just spout Democratic talking points.  Then, and only then, will they be ready to run for higher office.”
  • Finally, the editorial proclaims, “We would argue the same if they were white men.” Hahahahaha…riiiight. Keep in mind that this same paper has previously endorsed white men who had never been elected to anything previously or served in public office, such as Republican Ed Gillespie. I’m also pretty sure they never said this kind of thing about Democrat Terry McAuliffe, also a white male as far as I’m aware, when he first ran for office, without ever having held elective office (and was a successful governor). But…details, details. And surely there’s no correlation between these types of editorials and the candidates’ race or gender, right? LOL

So I was going to ignore this drivel, but then I saw that Del. Hala Ayala, one of the candidates the editorial called out for supposedly needing more “experience,” had responded. Ayala, who is 47 years old, served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 18 years and now works for the Transportation Security Administration, noted that she has a TON of experience, in addition to her three years in the Virginia General Assembly – such as being a “national security specialist of more than 17 years.” Ayala also argued that “experience only seems to come into question when women, particularly women of color, run for higher office.” 

Just briefly, also note that Elizabeth Guzman – who the editorial called out as well – has master’s degrees in public administration and social work, and “works tirelessly as a Court Appointed Service Advocate for CASA CIS to prevent child abuse.” And Guzman delivered the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address, in Spanish, in 2017. Not too shabby!  And Jennifer Carroll Foy “was one of the first African-American women to graduate from VMI, then received a master’s degree and law degree, worked as a magistrate judge, etc.

Now personally, I’d argue that experience is something voters can and should look at it in any and all political candidates. But – and this is a big “but” – experience can come in many forms.

For instance, when Mark Warner first ran for governor of Virginia in 2001, he had never previously held public office. However, Warner had done a ton of other impressive stuff, including earning a law degree from Harvard, helping found Nextel, managing Doug Wilder’s successful 1989 gubernatorial campaign, serving as DPVA chair from 1993 to 1995, etc. So how did Warner do, with his lack of experience as an elected official? In short: he did a great job as governor, leaving office with sky-high approval ratings; and he has been a superb U.S. Senator for years. What a disaster, huh? (snark) Again, though, he did all that without ever having held public office previously…something that Delegates Ayala, Guzman and Carroll Foy all have done, by the way.

I’d also note that, with the rush of new Democratic candidates stepping up to run for office after Trump’s inauguration, there’s been an enormous influx of talent into our party and our state. Just look at the classes of 2017 and 2019, as well as the new members of the U.S. House of Representatives (e.g., Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger, neither one of whom had previously held public office, and are now superb members of Congress). And check out some of the Democratic nominees this year, such as the impressive Qasim Rashid in VA01 and Dr. Cameron Webb in VA05, neither of whom has ever held elective office, but both of whom would make infinitely better Congressmen than their Republican opponents.

And, of course, many people claimed that Barack Obama didn’t have enough – or the right – experience to be president, before Obama went on to become a superb and historic president.

So, sure, “experience” is important, but not if we define it narrowly, and certainly not if we only call for it when it’s women, people of color, or – combine the two in the case of the InsideNOVA editorial – women of color. Even worse is when a white, conservative, male editorial board is the one doing the calling-out. Then, it just gets too coincidental to be a coincidence, as the saying goes…

P.S. The former director of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus, Trevor Southerland, also weighed in, tweeting, “It can be very hard to check your own sexism, racism or privilege, but you have to look within.”