Chase sues Virginia GOP to halt nominating convention
Gubernatorial hopeful contends primary is better option for voters
Claiming that the Republican Party of Virginia has “held the process hostage,” state Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, a GOP gubernatorial hopeful, has filed suit against the state GOP over its decision to hold a convention in May instead of a primary to select its 2021 candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Chase’s attorney, Tim Anderson of Virginia Beach, filed the lawsuit on Chase’s behalf against the Republican Party of Virginia on Tuesday in Richmond Circuit Court. He is seeking an emergency hearing and a temporary injunction by Feb. 23 — the state deadline for both parties to notify the State Board of Elections of their nomination process plans.
In an email statement, Chase said Tuesday that the GOP “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. I will not stand for this.” She declared also that the state party’s plans amount to “socialism,” by allowing only a few people in power to decide on candidates.
Virginia Democrats plan to hold a statewide primary in June allowing voters to choose nominees, but currently Republicans are sticking with hosting an “unassembled” convention — a pandemic-era version of a nominating convention, which is ordinarily held in a building with thousands of delegates. The party hosted so-called “drive-through” conventions last year to choose its nominees for Congress.
The debate over holding a statewide primary vs. a nominating convention is a controversial subject, especially this year. In January, state Republican Party leaders quickly adjourned a remote meeting to reconsider its December vote to host a convention, which could not be held in person without violating Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order to limit gatherings to 10 people or less.
Because the party’s State Central Committee has scheduled its next meeting Feb. 27, four days after the state deadline, Chase’s suit argues that the GOP plans to go forward with a convention despite significant opposition. The suit requests that the Richmond Circuit Court declare that the party is allowed only to hold an in-person convention — leading to the inevitable decision that such a gathering would be illegal under Northam’s Executive Order 72 to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
Chase vocally opposes a convention and flirted in December with running for governor as an independent — in part, she argued, because GOP officials could cut her out of the nomination over personal dislike. A self-described “Trump in heels,” Chase has long had disagreements with her party. In 2019, she left the Senate Republican Caucus over its more moderate stances on Medicaid and tax increases, and she also was kicked out of the Chesterfield County GOP after making public statements against the Republican county sheriff.
In late January, Chase was censured by the Virginia State Senate for “failure to uphold her oath of office, misuse of office and conduct unbecoming of a senator” based on several controversies over the past two years, including participation in a rally Jan. 6 at the National Mall, hours before the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol. She is the first Virginia senator censured since 1987, with a vote that included three Republican senators supporting her censure. Chase has sued the Senate in response, claiming the censure is a violation of her civil rights.
The first declared GOP candidate for governor, Chase has raised more money than her competitors, who all joined the race after the November 2020 election. Other vying for this year’s Virginia GOP gubernatorial nomination include state Del. Kirk Cox, former Carlyle Group CEO Glenn A. Youngkin and former New Media Strategies CEO Pete Snyder. Youngkin and Snyder, however, are multimillionaires who could potentially self-fund their campaigns.
The Republican Party of Virginia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.