RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WHSV/WWBT) — A Virginia Republican state senator says she's running for governor next year as an unabashed conservative whose top priority will be to promote gun rights.
Sen. Amanda Chase announced her candidacy Monday to a crowd of about 100 outside the Capitol on Monday, saying voters were unhappy with the state's new liberal direction under a Democratic majority — particularly on gun laws.
“I can't take it anymore,” Chase said.
Virginia has become ground zero in the country's gun debate, as a newly empowered Democratic majority seeks to pass several gun-control measures.
Chase is the first major candidate to formally announce a gubernatorial campaign. though several Democrats have indicated their interest in running. That includes Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Jennifer McClellan and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. Republican businessman Pete Snyder has also indicated an interest in running.
Current Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is not able to seek a consecutive term under state law.
A populist who often clashes with members of her own party, Chase represents a conservative district near Richmond and easily won reelection last year.
Senator Mark Obenshain, a fellow Republican, issued the following statement in response to Senator Chase's announcement:
“Amanda just doesn’t have a level of substance, maturity or seriousness that Virginians expect in a gubernatorial candidate.”
Late last year, Chase issued a statement declaring that she would no longer caucus with the Republican Party of Virginia because she said she doesn't support Sen. Tommy Norment's continued leadership of the caucus following Republicans' election losses in 2019.
That came after the month before, in which the Chesterfield County Republican Committee kicked Chase out of their local party over accusations she publicly supported an independent sheriff candidate running against a Republican nominee.
Chase said the feud began with the Republican sheriff candidate, who did not endorse her campaign, and claimed it all began with a much-publicized dispute she had with a Capitol Police officer in Richmond.
Chase apologized after that incident, saying she was sorry for losing her temper when a officer denied her access to a secure parking area near the Capitol.
Republicans have not won a statewide election in Virginia in more than a decade and the state's fast growing suburbs and urban areas tilt Democratic.
Chase said she believes she can reverse the string of GOP losses by increasing turnout among disaffected conservatives. She also left open the possibility she could run as an independent if she doesn't win the GOP nomination.
“People are tired of weak-kneed Republicans that get in there and moderate to the middle,” she said.
Her comments echoed the approach taken in 2018 by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Corey Stewart, who lost to U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine by 16 percentage points.
Chase has long been an outspoken gun supporter and used to openly carry a gun on the Senate floor and in committee hearings. A new Democrat majority at the General Assembly has banned guns in the Capitol this year and have passed number of gun-control measures this year.
“People look at me and they say you know what, this girl’s got some brass balls," said Chase.
In the state senate, Chase represents parts of Chesterfield County, as well as Colonial Heights and Amelia County.
“Virginians will not be controlled by the government but rather that government be controlled by the people,” said Chase.
In her speech, the Republican took aim at proposed increases to the state minimum wage, abortion law rollbacks and increased gun legislation.
“Amanda Chase is the chosen one and the Republican Party needs to back her up," said supporter Troy Carter. "They need to get behind her.”
Carter, who lives south of Richmond, said candidates like Chase are listening to rural parts of the commonwealth.
"We’re not happy. We’re not happy with the ways things are going. We’re not happy that they’re shoving things down our throat,” said Carter.
At her announcement Monday, Chase took questions from reporters and supporters. The closing question came from a supporter, who asked which country is the best in the world.
The crowd chanted “U.S.A.!" and then, with the same cadence: “Governor Chase.”
Chase will seek the Republican nomination during the party’s convention in May. If she doesn’t get it, Chase told supporters she will run as an independent.
“The challenge that Republicans who run for governor have made is they like to moderate to the middle. I’m not doing that. I’m doubling down because I feel like people are tired of weak-kneed Republicans that get in there and moderate to the middle,” said Chase.
If elected, Chase would become Virginia’s first female governor. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Virginia released a statement saying in part, “Virginia Republicans love nominating out of touch extremists for statewide offices, and Amanda Chase definitely fits the bill.”