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Virginia Senate Votes to Censure Amanda Chase

Woman in crowd
State Sen. Amanda Chase was in attendance at an extremist rally organized by self-styled "boogaloo boys" last summer, where organizers chanted anti-police and anti-government slogans. (Photo: Coleman Jennings/VPM News)

Virginia’s Senate voted on Wednesday to censure Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian) for exhibiting “conduct unbecoming of a Senator,” dealing a rare but toothless rebuke to the GOP gubernatorial candidate.

Chase personally attacked several senators during her response to the censure, accusing them of “double standards” and vowing legal action.

The 24-9 bipartisan vote for censure followed Chase’s speaking appearance at a Jan. 6 rally that ultimately led to the storming of the U.S. Capitol. Chase later referred to people who stormed the Capitol as “patriots” in a fundraising email and Facebook post. Three Republicans -- Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City), Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier) and Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) -- joined all 21 Democrats in voting to censure Chase.

Sen. John Bell (D-Loudon), who sponsored the resolution, had offered to drop the censure if Chase apologized for her statements. Chase apologized if she had offended anyone last week -- a statement Norment, the top Republican in the Senate, called an “appalling un-apology.”

Bell’s original language accused Chase of “fomenting insurrection.” On Tuesday, he replaced that with eight specific incidents in a bid to win over some senators, mostly Republicans, who’d voiced concerns over whether Chase’s remarks at the rally constituted free speech.

The final language accused Chase of “disregard for civility in discourse with colleagues, making false and misleading statements both in committee and on the Senate floor, and displaying a disregard for the significance of her duty to the citizens of the Commonwealth.” 

It listed a litany of incidents, including Chase verbally berating a Capitol Police officer in 2019; blaming victims of sexual assault for being “naive”; claiming that the Democratic Party of Virginia is “ racist to its core”; and failing to distance herself from white nationalists and insurrectionists at the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Chase did move to disavow those groups in her response to the senators.

“I don’t support any groups that support hate,” Chase said. “I support groups that support love and unity.”

Chase has appeared alongside numerous fringe figures. At last year’s gun rally in Richmond, she gave a speech standing next to Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right militia group the Proud Boys. Two men who have regularly appeared alongside Chase are in jail in Philadelphia, where they were arrested over weapons charges outside a vote-counting site. Her donors include George Randall, whom the Daily Beast identified as a member of the neo-Confederate group League of the South.

Republicans were some of Chase’s loudest critics in the censure hearings. That included Norment, who recounted several incidents where Chase had lied on the Senate floor.

“I prayerfully wish that she would use that energy and that time on dealing with her own emotional and mental well being,” Norment said.

Sen. Steve Newman (R-Bedford) called it “an ugly day for the Senate of Virginia,” though he declined to support the censure because he said Senate rules required that a committee investigate each of the eight charges. 

“This series of items that are in this list represent to me a bit of a call for help,” Newman said.

Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) accused Chase of “boorish behavior” and Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County) called her repeated lies “beyond reproach.” Both senators declined to vote, arguing censuring her would just empower Chase.

Chase was mostly unrepentant.

“If it weren't for double standards, there would be no standards at all in this body,” Chase said. She accused Norment of “affairs and lying, and conflicts of interest and corporate donations.” She also laid into Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), who faced two felony charges connected to the toppling of a Confederate monument that were dismissed in November.

“The amount of hypocritical language that I have heard in this body is beyond the pale,” Chase said.

The Virginia NAACP argued the censure was a step in the right direction but didn't go far enough.

“The Virginia Senate should not permit anyone who defends sedition and engages in race-baiting political theater to serve,” Virginia State Conference NAACP President Robert Barnette, Jr. said in a statement.

Chase is one of five Republicans running for governor this year and has built up a loyal following on Facebook. The social media company took down Chase’s page for 30 days in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riots for repeated violations of its “ dangerous individual and organization” policy, according to a spokesperson for the company.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.