RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — Virginia’s Senate voted across party lines to censure one of its members who spoke at former President Donald Trump’s Save America rally just before the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol.
State Senator Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, has long been a firebrand even among her own party. A self-described “Donald Trump in heels,” the second-term lawmaker’s history of run-ins with police and other legislators and, most recently, calling those who stormed the Capitol “patriots” after speaking at the rally, appeared to have finally caught up with her during Wednesday afternoon’s session.
“As senators, we are leaders in our communities and in the commonwealth. Leaders are role models -- people upon which each Virginian can model appropriate conduct,” Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said in a statement following the 24-9 vote. “Unfortunately, Senator Amanda Chase has let the commonwealth down by setting a bad example in her words and actions against Black Virginians, law enforcement officers, rape victims, small business owners, fellow senators on both sides of the aisle, and most importantly the integrity of our democratic processes.”
The three-page censure starts by describing an incident in which she "berated a Capitol Police officer" after she was not given access to special parking in March 2019. It closes with her support for those who stormed the U.S. Capital earlier this month, leaving five dead, including a police officer.
“This censure is nothing more than a politically driven attack because I’m the front runner for Governor,” Chase tweeted out ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
Chase stands out on the socially distanced Senate floor because she has her own plexiglass enclosure after refusing to wear a mask. One sitting Virginia senator died of coronavirus just ahead of this year’s session.
Three Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the censure, including Senator Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier, whose district makes up the western edge of Washington’s suburbs. Ahead of her vote, Vogel claimed she’d never heard a senator be so “deceitful or openly dishonest.”
But Vogel and other leaders from the Senate Republican Caucus lamented the time spent during the short annual legislative session dealing with an issue they thought would only feed Chase’s “constant need for media attention.”
“It is disheartening for the Senate’s time to be occupied by something other than resolving Virginia’s” many crises, Senate Republican Leader Thomas K. Norment, himself the target of Chase’s wrath from time to time, said in a statement after joining Vogel and Senator Bryce Reeves, R–Spotsylvania, in voting yes on the measure.
Still, Chase has found strong support from the far right wing of her party, winning her seat by 39 points last year. She’s also working to get her name and face in the public ahead of the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race. She’s thrown her hat into the ring and will undoubtedly draw votes.
“There is a base of Republican support for Senator Chase before and after the censure vote,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington.
“Chases prospects are probably best in a convention where the most intense Republicans participate,” he added, noting the state’s GOP has yet to decide how their party’s gubernatorial candidate will be decided. “But her prospects may also be good in a divided primary field where the anti-Chase Republicans might go in other directions.”
However, Farnsworth noted she would face a steep hill in a general election race that Democrats have won every time in the last decade. A conservative stronghold until 2013, Trump lost Virginia last November by almost 10 points.
“What wins you a primary in Virginia’s Republican Party doesn’t win you an election in November,” he said.
The censure is more of a slap on the wrist and will have little consequence for Chase. She’d already been stripped of most her committee memberships, but the measure creates an official record of the demerit in the state’s 401-year-old legislative body.
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