‘Trump in heels’ emerges as problem for GOP in Virginia
A Virginia state senator and gubernatorial candidate who has described herself as “Trump in heels” is emerging as a problem for the state’s Republican party as they seek to take the governor’s mansion.
Amanda Chase boasts enthusiastic grassroots support in pockets of the state. But she has also drawn bipartisan rebuke for incendiary statements calling for martial law to overturn the 2020 presidential election and seemingly expressing support for the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol. That’s left Democrats eager to paint her as the face of the state’s Republican Party.
Chase on Tuesday filed a lawsuit alleging that the Republican Party was attempting to tank her candidacy, accusing the state GOP of trying to force a situation where the party’s executive committee selects a gubernatorial nominee rather than a traditional convention or primary.
“Currently, the Republican Party of Virginia has chosen a method that is illegal under the Governor’s current executive orders and is secretly planning to choose the statewide nominees themselves, bypassing the people of Virginia,” Chase said in a statement on Tuesday. “I will not stand for this. The people should be allowed to vote on Republican nominees.”
Chase is part of a crowded GOP primary field, which includes the former Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Kirk Cox, businessman Pete Snyder and former private equity CEO Glenn Youngkin.
The nominating convention and gubernatorial election later this year is set to be the first major electoral test for former President Trump’s movement, but the divisiveness among Virginia Republicans largely mirrors the divide among Republicans across the country, who are deciding whether to follow Trump or forge a different path.
State Republican parties across the country have censured well-known GOP figures from their states for breaking with Trump, while House Republicans face backlash for failing to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — an enthusiastic Trump supporter and purveyor of false claims about the 2020 election — of her committee assignments amid resurfaced controversial and bigoted comments.
“I think the mood is dumpster fire,” former Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman (R) said in an interview. “Right now there’s a lot of people in the middle that are defining conservative as crazy based on these rash of censures and behavior you have across the nation.”
Chase, who was received national attention since the infamous “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, has attracted a swath of pro-Trump, grassroots support in the commonwealth.
“That is my base support,” Chase said. “I’m most in line with President Trump number one because I’m a businessperson, I’m not a politician.”
She filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the Virginia state Senate after its members voted to censure her 24-9 over her apparent support for the rioters involved in the Capitol attack.
She attended the pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., that preceded the riot and called attendees “patriots,” though she is not believed to have been among the mob that broke into the Capitol.
The state’s Democrats also appear to be aware of Chase’s power with grassroots Republicans and conservatives in the state.
The party has already tied Chase to Greene, sending out a release last week with the headline “Amanda Chase and Virginia Republicans Ride Shotgun As Marjorie Taylor Greene Becomes the Face of the GOP.”
And last week it sent out a fundraising email, urging donors to contribute, saying Chase was correct to call herself the front-runner.
“In her most recent filing with the Department of Elections, Chase’s campaign listed 841 individual donors from around Virginia. The next closest Democrat only had 785,” the email read.
Republicans have expressed concern that Chase, if she wins the nomination, will not be able to create a large enough coalition to win in November’s general election, especially in the Washington, D.C., suburbs of northern Virginia.
“The challenge for the Republicans in Virginia is that they need some way in some candidate who can both generate enough support among the Trump base, but also be successful in the suburban areas where they’re getting wiped out in these statewide races,” said veteran Virginia political analyst Bob Holsworth.
Democrats find themselves in a strong position going in to the November election after winning control of both state legislatures in 2019, effectively turning the state blue.
Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker warned in an interview that if the state GOP followed Trump and Chase they would become even more of a minority party in the state.
“My mama always told me never get in the middle of a petty family feud and the Republican Party of Virginia is having their own chaos, and infighting, and intense division over where they go and how they get there,” Swecker said. “They’ve got to figure out what they’re going to do [and] what they stand for.”
President Biden won the Northern Virginia enclaves of Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties with more than 60 percent of the vote.
“There’s not going to be anybody in Northern Virginia, even on the Republican side, who want to give to candidates who are supported by people who believe in conspiracy theories or they’re bigots, or they’re racists,” Riggleman said.
Some say the state party’s decision to hold a convention this year rather than a primary was related to the Republican establishment’s need to stop Chase.
“Essentially this is really like an insiders game on that front,” Holsworth said. “She has been disowned by the vast majority of the Republican establishment in Virginia for a variety of reasons.”
But others say a convention, which will likely be attended by grassroots activists, could empower a polarizing figure like Chase.
“That’s ludicrous,” Riggleman said. “What happens is you win a convention by appealing to the idealogues but you have no way to win a general election.”
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