Hala Ayala on Dominion donation flip: ‘People change their minds all the time.’

Del. Hala Ayala, D-Woodbridge, spoke at a rally in 2019 on the steps of the Capitol in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Del. Hala Ayala, the newly minted Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, drew harsh criticism in the final days of the campaign for flipping on a promise to refuse campaign donations from state-regulated monopolies.

Her campaign ducked questions about the decision last week after finance reports revealed she had accepted a $100,000 donation from Dominion Energy, but in an interview at a polling place in Prince William on Tuesday, she suggested the decision came down to being able to fund her campaign’s voter outreach.

“It’s about talking to voters, right? And making sure we communicate and get our message out because it overwhelmingly resonates, as you’ve seen,” she said.

But she insisted that her perspective on energy and utility regulation had not changed.

“People change their minds all the time. People grow. That doesn’t change where my focus is,” she said. “I will always fight for renewable energies. I will always fight for Virginians. My record is the only thing that I have to show my accountability.”

Donations from Dominion, the state’s largest corporate donor, have split Democrats in recent years, as has Clean Virginia — an advocacy group that set out to counter the company’s influence by offering substantial donations to candidates who refuse support from utilities.

Ayala made multiple promises to refuse Dominion’s donation since she was first elected in 2017. After she pledged to refuse the money in her latest campaign for lieutenant governor, Clean Virginia donated $25,000 to her campaign.

She called the organization’s decision to retaliate with a $125,000 ad buy against her “unfortunate,” but said she had no opinion on the broader debate within the Democratic party over the organization’s role in state politics.