RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Winsome Sears, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, laid off several members of her campaign staff, including her campaign manager, just over a week before early voting starts in Virginia.
Mike Allers Jr, who worked as Sears’ press secretary, told 8News that he and six other staffers were informed they were being let go in an email Wednesday night from a law firm hired by the Sears campaign.
“I write to advise you that the Sears campaign is electing to terminate its agreement with you, effective as of September 30, 2021,” read the email, which added the staffer was not expected to continue working for the campaign moving forward.
Allers, who shared that he received no call or explanation for the layoffs, said he was “blindsided” by the decision but he enjoyed his time with the campaign and is rooting for Sears in the race. CJ Jordan, Sears’ campaign manager, was also laid off, he said.
While Allers noted there was “dissension” within the campaign after Sears brought on a new political consulting firm, he said he didn’t expect the power struggles, which he called common, to lead to layoffs. He said he and the other six staffers who were fired were the “hardest working and most committed” to the Sear campaign and they are “heartbroken.”
“We were always a lean campaign. Now, it went from lean to emaciated,” Allers said. “I was laid off by Dunkin’ Donuts once, and it was done with more respect than this.”
Sears could not be reached by phone Thursday and the consulting firm Creative Direct, which is working with her campaign and sent the emails to the staffers, did not respond to a request for comment.
The campaign shakeup from Sears, a former state delegate and the first Black Republican woman to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly, comes as candidates gear up for the final stretch to the Nov. 2 election.
Sears is facing off with Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) to be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor, a part-time position used as a springboard to higher office. Del. Ayala, who identifies as Afro-Latina, Lebanese and Irish, was elected to the Virginia House in 2017.
When asked if the election for Virginia lieutenant governor would be held today, 39% of likely voters said they would vote for Ayala and 31% would support Winsome Sears, according to a recent VCU statewide poll. A Wason Center poll released a week after VCU’s survey has Ayala with a 10% advantage.
No matter the outcome, history will be made after the election as no woman of color has held a statewide office and no woman has served as Virginia’s lieutenant governor.
Virginia’s three statewide offices, governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, all 100 House of Delegates seats and some local races will be on the ballot.
Early voting starts in Virginia on Sept. 17.