2021 elections

Virginia GOP’s Gubernatorial Contest Is a Trumpian Mess

Virginia state senator Amanda Chase is gunning for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

On June 8, Virginia Democrats will hold a regular, state-run primary to determine their nominees for three statewide offices (governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general). The Commonwealth’s Republicans, however, exercised an option to hold a nominating convention instead, allegedly out of fear that ultra-MAGA state senator and gubernatorial candidate Amanda Chase might win a low-turnout primary and then drag down the whole ticket in the November general election.

Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions enacted by the rascally Democrats who control state government, the GOP couldn’t have an old-school in-person convention. So they opted for what they are calling an “unassembled convention,” in which 53,000 self-designated delegates will drop off ballots by car in 39 locations scattered around the state. Virginia doesn’t have party registration, so any registered voter can become a delegate to the GOP “convention,” though presumably you’d need some wheels. But hilariously, given the national GOP obsession with “election integrity” these days, the Virginia GOP is certifying delegates who have offered no proof of their identity, and/or didn’t sign their applications to play in this particular sandbox. According to NBC News, in fact, over 10 percent of the delegates didn’t fill in the allegedly required voter-ID number from their registration filing. Yes, they will have to show some ID to vote, but that doesn’t address the possibility of unregistered voters getting certified and then participating.

That’s not the only controversy surrounding the “convention.” To simulate a live convention, the Virginia GOP is insisting on ranked-choice voting, which will be an entirely new phenomenon for all of the participants (unless they just moved in from Maine or New York City). There are seven gubernatorial candidates, so this won’t be a simple process; NBC says the ballots “will then be counted by hand in a central location under armed guard, which is expected to take several days.”

For Amanda Chase, the self-described “Trump in high heels” who is explicitly running against the sell-out RINOs who run the Virginia GOP, all the confusion is an absolute godsend. She’s already threatening to challenge the results in court (unless she wins, of course):

“DO NOT TRUST THE PARTY TO DELIVER ACCURATE RESULTS,” she wrote in a fundraising email to supporters. “Who should you go to for the proper results? Me and my campaign! My campaign will be monitoring the voting and data entry on election night. If they are accurate, we will tell you. If they are not, I will be prepared to sue in court to force a public count.”

Chase truly is Trumpy, planting the idea before an election that she is the only legitimate validator of the results, that her fellow Republicans will knowingly count her out, just like those traitors Brad Raffensperger and Brian Kemp down in Georgia.

She certainly has a Trumpian knack for staying in the news, as evidenced by a bizarre new story reported by the Washington Post:

An aide traveling with Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Amanda F. Chase brandished an AR-15 pistol this week at a man who Chase said threatened them during a “road rage” incident. Audio from Chase’s campaign van was captured as the episode unfolded because Chase was participating by phone in a candidate forum put on by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights group. She was touting her staunch support for the Second Amendment when she abruptly excused herself.

“I’ve consistently voted against disarming law-abiding citizens, especially this patchwork — Okay, we gotta go. I’m sorry, y’all,” she tells the VCDL audience before she’s heard sternly addressing the alleged road rager: “No. Stop.”

Her remote audience heard a distinct “metallic clipping noise,” and then a male voice saying: “That’ll get your bitch ass in the car, won’t it?” Chase staffer Shayne Snavely subsequently claimed the anonymous driver he was threatening with an AR-15 pistol had tried to run him off the road and then got out of his car and confronted him after a (no pun intended) car chase. The aforementioned anonymous driver apparently got in his car and fled, and Snavely didn’t think it merited involving the authorities. Just another day in MAGA-land, I guess.

You have to appreciate that guns are very central to Amanda Chase’s identity. She has been nicknamed “Annie Oakley” for her habit of wearing a hand cannon on the state Senate floor, and says she never leaves home unarmed. So it’s probably much safer that Republicans will hold their convention “unassembled,” and not just because of COVID-19 (though Chase has also refused to wear a mask in the Virginia Senate, necessitating the construction of a plastic shield around her desk to protect her colleagues).

Whoever emerges from the chaos of Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial contest will be a distinct underdog in the general election. Heavy Democratic front-runner Terry McAuliffe became the first gubernatorial candidate since 1977 to overcome the “curse” of his party controlling the White House when he won in 2013. Given the state’s pro-Democratic trend in all elections, and the troubles of Virginia’s Republicans, he’ll likely be the second in November.

Virginia GOP’s Gubernatorial Contest Is a Trumpian Mess