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Controversial state Sen. Amanda Chase announces run for governor
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Controversial state Sen. Amanda Chase announces run for governor

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RICHMOND — Amanda Chase, the gun-carrying Republican state senator from Chesterfield County, is running for governor.

The second-term senator cited Democratic gun control proposals as the reason for running for statewide office.

“I can’t take it anymore,” Chase said in her announcement Monday afternoon on the Capitol steps, referring to “the liberal, socialistic agenda that has taken control of the Capitol.”

“Virginians deserve better.”

She added: “As a humble servant to my district, Virginia and my country, I can no longer just continue to hold accountable the leadership and legislators that embrace the stripping of law-abiding citizens of their First Amendment rights, Second Amendment rights and their constitutional freedoms. It’s just not enough. So I’m going to do something about it.”

The Chesterfield Observer reported in October that Chase planned to run for governor in 2025. Instead, the 50-year-old financial planner, who represents Amelia County, Colonial Heights and part of Chesterfield, will seek the office four years earlier.

Republicans haven’t won a statewide election since Bob McDonnell led a GOP sweep for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in 2009. The party is looking to change that next year, but Chase got an immediate rebuke from another Republican state senator who doesn’t think Chase is the person for the job.

“Amanda just doesn’t have a level of substance, maturity or seriousness that Virginians expect in a gubernatorial candidate,” Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, said in a statement.

Chase made the announcement after a weekend filled with speculation. Chase had shared a video Friday on Facebook saying she planned to make a “HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT” on Monday.

Chase, first elected to the Senate in 2015, has made headlines for her roles in a number of controversies. She announced in November that she was leaving the Senate Republican Caucus after Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, was re-elected as the Senate Republican leader. In September, Chase was kicked out of the Chesterfield County Republican Party after she publicly attacked Republican Sheriff Karl Leonard.

On Monday, Chase did not rule out running as an independent, saying she planned to seek the Republican nomination but adding that she would “fully run” if there are “any shenanigans that are pulled.”

“I will seek it but it won’t deter me,” she said.

In March 2019, Chase was seen on video berating a Capitol Police officer who refused to let her park in a secure area near the Capitol. She started openly carrying a pistol last year and has continued to carry a gun inside legislative buildings despite new rules barring firearms from the buildings.

During last year’s General Assembly session, Chase used Capitol Police for transportation so frequently that the agency’s chief asked the House and Senate clerks to remind legislators about accepted procedures.

“I don’t care about controversies,” she said Monday about the potential for the incidents to be used against her. “Bring it.”

Her close ties with the gun rights community were on display Jan. 20, when an estimated 22,000 people rallied in Richmond in support of the Second Amendment. Chase spoke at the rally and drew loud cheers from the crowd when walking on Bank Street.

Her gubernatorial announcement came two days after presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg came to Richmond to make his case to Virginia Democrats, touting his efforts to back General Assembly candidates who support gun control measures.

“Bloomberg is interested in restricting law-abiding citizens’ ability to protect themselves,” Chase said in an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning. “I am willing to lead the effort to fight this attack on our constitutional rights.”

On Monday morning, a Senate committee killed for the year a bill to ban assault weapons, a measure Chase specifically cited in her interview as an infringement on Second Amendment rights.

After the committee meeting, gun rights proponents chanted “Governor Chase” in support of the senator’s opposition to the bill. They did the same outside the Capitol during Chase’s announcement, with Brian Baker of Chesterfield waving a red flag with “Chase 2021” written on it.

“She sticks to her guns,” Baker, a disabled Army veteran, said on why he supports Chase. “Hopefully she becomes our leader.”

In 2016, Chase co-founded the Transparency Caucus with Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, who this year sponsored the assault weapons ban. While they strongly disagree on the gun bill, Chase has touted their past joint efforts to add sunlight to some of the assembly’s procedures.

After the caucus spearheaded a change to require recorded votes in subcommittees, the percentage of bills killed on unrecorded votes dropped from about 55% in 2017 to less than 30% in 2018, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. The Transparency Caucus also was a driving force in the House and Senate moving in 2018 to begin livestreaming and archiving video of full committee meetings.

Chase was a co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation Gov. Ralph Northam signed in March 2019 to require excavation of coal ash stored in Dominion Energy ponds across the state – more than half of it buried in two storage ponds in Chesterfield.

Other potential candidates for the Republican nomination include Pete Snyder, a technology and marketing executive who unsuccessfully ran for the lieutenant governor nomination in 2013, and Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, who bowed out of the contest for the 5th District GOP congressional nomination in 2018, saying he would consider running for governor or attorney general in 2021.

State law bars Northam, a Democrat, from running for re-election in 2021. Virginia is the only state that prohibits governors from seeking consecutive terms.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, Sen. Jennifer McClellan of Richmond, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy of Prince William County and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe are among Democrats considering a run for their party’s nomination.

Both parties have expressed frustration with Chase. Senate Democratic leaders in January stripped Chase of all but one committee assignment, while Republicans have criticized Chase for leaving the Senate Republican Caucus.

Democratic Party of Virginia spokesman Grant Fox said: “Virginia Republicans love nominating out of touch extremists for statewide offices, and Amanda Chase definitely fits the bill. We’re looking forward to seeing her follow in the footsteps of Corey Stewart, Ed Gillespie, and Ken Cuccinelli, continuing Virginia Republicans’ perfect record of losing every statewide election for 10 years running.”

Of the 26 bills Chase introduced this session, none passed the Senate.

jmattingly@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6012

Twitter: @jmattingly306​

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