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(Originally published on the Washington Post) Hala Ayala, a Democrat vying to represent Prince William County in the state legislature, heard the usual gripes when she approached Susan Frederick outside the voter’s tidy suburban townhouse: low teacher pay, congested commutes to federal jobs. Then their chat turned intense.


(Originally published on Inside NOVA) For Democrat Hala Ayala, Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act don’t just make her angry — they break her heart. In her bid to unseat Del. Rich Anderson, R-51st District, she has often spoken about her time relying on Medicaid. Now the renewed push in Congress to roll back former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law has her urging lawmakers to listen to the stories of people who rely on the program. Though she’s now in a position to run for political office in Prince William, Ayala vividly remembers being 24-years-old, working at a gas station along Old Bridge Road, when she discovered her unborn son was facing serious health problems. Her baby was facing “life-threatening” breathing problems, not to mention diabetes and acid reflux disease, but she didn’t have any health insurance through her job. “Thank God we were covered under Medicaid,” Ayala said in a Sept. 19 interview. “Otherwise, he might not be here today.”


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.


Hala Ayala is a candidate to represent the 51st District in the Virginia House of Delegates in the upcoming election. A single mom, Ayala decided to leave behind a 17-year career in cyber security to run for office. She’s the founder and current president of the Prince William County chapter of the National Organization for Women and serves on Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Council on Women. In January, Ayala helped coordinate Virginia’s Women’s March on Washington.


It’s been six months after the largest national protest in United States history. The Women’s March made big promises. Now, in Virginia, it turns out lots of women are keeping those promises and running for office. During the primary, 51 women—a record number—ran for seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Two years ago, 26 women ran.


“Right after, I felt I needed to do more,” said Hala Ayala, a single mother of two and cyber security specialist running for a delegate seat representing an area including Prince William’s County. “At the march you could stare into one another’s eyes and see where they’ve been. It was almost intolerable,” said Ayala, who’s been a volunteer and community organizer but never run for office. Like Ayala, a number of the women running for the first time are minorities.