Like so many women, she marched and now she’s running.
Hala Ayala has been active in Democratic politics for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until after she helped organize a contingent of Virginia women of the Women’s March on Washington that she saw her name on the ballot.
“We woke up the next day and I don’t even know if this is clinically correct but we had political depression,” she said. “But then I went to the march and the experience, marching with these women, it really energized me and inspired me to take the next step.”
For years, Ayala has worked to promote women in politics and civic life. She revived her county chapter of the National Organization for Women and serves on Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Council on Women.
As a single mother of two, one of whom was born with a serious medical condition, Ayala relied on welfare and Medicaid for support. At one point, she worked as a cashier at the local gas station before enrolling in a training program that put her on a path to a career in cyber security.
Ayala recently left her job as a cyber security specialist with the Department of Homeland Security to join a record number of women to seek a seat in the Virginia legislature. The decision was not without risks and she said she still occasionally wonders if it was the right decision for her family.
“There is a lot of sacrifices that we make to run for office and those are not taken lightly,” she said.
So far this risk has been rewarding. In June, Ayala won her primary. She is now among 31 Democratic women running for currently Republican-held seats in the Virginia House of Delegates.