Record number of women running for seats in Virginia House of Delegates
ARLINGTON, Va. (ABC7) —
With the polls opening in Virginia in just hours, Hala Ayala is still at it, knocking on doors.
"I think it's important for women to have a seat on the table," she says. "Not on the menu."
Ayala, a single mother of two and a cybersecurity specialist, is a political novice.
She's running as a Democrat, hoping to win the 51st District House of Delegates seat, based in Prince William County.
"Put me in the game coach, I'm running for office," Ayala says. "Equal pay for equal work, health care expansion, to make sure we are strengthening our schools."
She says the idea of running for political office came to her during the "Women's March on Washington" back in January, after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President.
"You wake up on November 9th, it was a total different universe than what we expected," she says.
Ayala is not alone; 43 Democratic women are on the ballot; 26 have never run for office before.
"There's been a record number of women running for the house of delegates," says Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.
He calls it, the "Trump Effect."
"Win or lose on Tuesday, the Democrats have demonstrated that one key Trump effect is the willingness on the part of many voters, particularly women, to run for office," Farnsworth says.
Elections records show that two years ago, 24 women ran in the primaries; this year, 51 were in the running.
"There has been a fire that has been lit under a lot of people, including Hala," says Sam George, an Ayala campaign staffer.
It's not a large group.
Ayala runs her campaign from her garage.
Caffeine-fueled volunteers tap away on laptops, while Ayala cruises the neighborhood, scouring for votes.
"(She's) just fed up with how government is functioning currently," George says. "It takes a lot of self-sacrifice to run for office. Gotta put yourself out there."
One of the homes Ayala did not stop at was just down the street.
Outside sits a campaign sign for 51st District incumbent Richard Anderson, put there by homeowner Randolf Blanks, who also supported Trump last year.
"I voted for him, but I don't agree on everything he does," Blanks says.
Blanks says he and his wife are pretty active politically.
They put up signs, hand out literature, work the polls, and make campaign donations.
He likes Anderson, and agrees with about "98%" of what the three-term incumbent does.
But he says backing the president, and Anderson, are two different things.
"He's representing me in the state legislature, Trump isn't," Blanks declares. "I'm for him, he's done a lot of great things for this district."
Anderson did not return our calls for comment.
But while Ayala and Blanks are hoping for a win, Blanks is concerned the noise in a charged political climate is drowning out the message.
"I think that's what we've got a lot of, emotion," Blanks says quietly. "And people don't understand what the facts are."
Ayala says she just wants to make a difference.
"I think we're going to hear a loud cry on Tuesday morning that says, we won't go back," Ayala says. "We're going to continue to push forward."