Former gas station worker Hala Ayala is now a state lawmaker. She’s fighting to flip Virginia blue for the first time in 20 years.
Ayala beat a five-term GOP incumbent in her first election in 2017 and is running against him again for re-election. Years earlier, she worked at a local gas station to make ends meet.
“I had no idea I was gonna get into politics at all,” she said. “I thought—I was on public assistance once early on in my life after my father was murdered, the second part was when I had my son. Medicaid was his lifesaver, so I know the importance of it.”
Republicans hold slim two-seat margins in both the House and Senate. And Virginia Democrats made historic gains in 2017, flipping 15 House seats. As a result, they were able to expand Medicaid and raise pay for teachers.
“I’ve always had a strong affinity to defend those who could not defend themselves,” she said. “I was always takin’ up for children in school even when I couldn’t take up for myself. The injustice of the world of the inequalities, I think that contributes to my strong desire to serve now, and I started to realize how policies impact people and who makes the decisions, right?”