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Amanda Chase Sues as GOP Nomination Process Deadlocks

Woman speaking
Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian) at the announcement of her run for governor last February. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian) filed a lawsuit on Tuesday seeking to prevent the Republican Party of Virginia from following through on plans to choose a gubernatorial nominee via convention instead of a primary.

The case highlights a lingering intra-party battle that, if unresolved, could give a 77-person committee the power to select GOP candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Conventions typically draw thousands of people to choose a nominee. Chase’s petition filed in Richmond City Circuit Court argues a gathering of that size will be unlawful in a pandemic.

The petition cites executive orders from Gov. Ralph Northam limiting the size of gatherings -- restrictions Chase and other Republicans have frequently criticized. It asks the court to bar the party from holding a convention. Chase favors primaries over conventions and at one point threatened to run as an independent if the party’s top committee chose a convention.

“I will not stand idly by and allow the people of Virginia to be disenfranchised from choosing their statewide nominees,” Chase wrote in an email to supporters.

Republicans on the State Central Committee narrowly voted in December to choose their nominees via convention. Backers of that strategy hoped to hold an “unassembled” convention held simultaneously in locations across the state to skirt COVID restrictions. But in subsequent meetings, they’ve lacked the 75% supermajority required to change the party’s rules to accommodate that process.

Primary supporters have refused to budge, arguing primaries allow a broader swath of the electorate, including military veterans, to vote. But RPV chair Rich Anderson only has until Feb. 23 to inform the Virginia Department of Elections if the party wants to go forward with a state-run primary.

If the committee doesn’t change its rules or come to an agreement, they could end up choosing the candidate themselves.

“That’s the danger of this game of chicken that’s being played, and it’s what concerns me,” Anderson told conservative talk show host John Fredricks last month. “Maybe there will be a miracle, but right now, on this day, standing in front of my telephone with you, I don’t see a pathway forward.”

Through a spokesperson, Anderson declined to comment on Chase’s lawsuit, citing pending litigation. In her email, Chase called the option of a nomination by the SCC “socialism.”

Chase was censured by the state Senate earlier this month following her speaking appearance at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the storming of the U.S. Capitol. She later referred to the people who attacked the building as “patriots.”

Six candidates have formally announced a bid for the Republican nomination.

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