2022 Race

Raquel Lyra becomes first female Pernambuco governor-elect

Raquel Lyra first female Pernambuco governor
Raquel Lyra. Photo: Luis Macedo/CD

With 99.97 percent of ballots counted, former Caruaru Mayor Raquel Lyra was elected governor in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. Ms. Lyra secured 58.7 percent of the vote, and will become the first female leader of the state after beating another woman, Marília Arraes, who took 41.3 percent of runoff ballots.

Ms. Lyra’s victory is a silver lining for the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), a former nationwide powerhouse that has for years been showing signs of decline. The 43-year-old governor-elect is seen as a potential option for party renewal, after putting an end to the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB)’s 16-year streak in the state.

The election was also marked by the rivalry between two of the most traditional families in Pernambuco politics. Ms. Lyra is the daughter of former governor João Lyra Neto, as well as niece of former federal deputy Fernando Lyra. Ms. Arraes, meanwhile, is the granddaughter of former Governor Miguel Arraes.

This is the second big defeat in a row for Ms. Arraes, after losing the 2020 mayoral race in Pernambuco’s capital, Recife, to her cousin João Campos.

Ms. Lyra’s neutrality with regard to the presidential runoff was not an impediment to her gubernatorial victory, despite criticism from Ms. Arraes, who bet on associating her name to President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a state where the national winner secured a heavy victory.

The governor-elect had supported third-placed Simone Tebet in the first round, but did not endorse any candidate in the presidential runoff, looking to secure backing from voters of Lula and outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro. 

Ms. Lyra had to overcome personal adversity after losing her husband, Fernando Lucena, following a sudden stroke on October 2, during the first round of the election. Ms. Lyra spent more than a week in seclusion with her children and family, and her team even made an appeal to Ms. Arraes in order to postpone campaigning in the runoff stage, but her request was refused.