RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Republican Winsome E. Sears was sworn in as Virginia’s lieutenant governor on Saturday, the first woman of color, and only the second woman, to hold a statewide office in the commonwealth.

Sears, a former state delegate, will preside over the state Senate as lieutenant governor. As president of the 40-member chamber, Sears will be tasked with breaking tied votes when lawmakers are locked on a measure. 

Sears, the first Black Republican woman to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly, represented Norfolk in the House of Delegates from 2002 to 2004. She emigrated from Jamaica when she was a child and served in the Marines before running for office.

The job of Lt. Gov., the only statewide office that is part-time, is mainly an administrative role, but one seen as a springboard to the Executive Mansion. Gov. Ralph Northam and two former Virginia governors, Sen Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Douglas Wilder, all served as lieutenant governor before taking the commonwealth’s top elected office.

The official duties of Virginia’s lieutenant governor are to preside over the state Senate as the president of the 40-member chamber and to succeed the governor if they were to leave office before their term is over.

The lieutenant governor casts tie-breaking votes when state senators are split on a measure and can make rulings on disputes between lawmakers.

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