State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, advanced unfounded allegations of widespread election fraud as she rallied support for her gubernatorial campaign Saturday outside the Virginia Department of Elections.
Her claims went further than even those of President Donald Trump’s campaign, which have been widely debunked, as she asserted without evidence that the supposed maleficence extended to Virginia — a state that Trump lost by more than 400,000 votes and where a Republican hasn’t won a statewide election in more than a decade.
“I believe there’s been an attempt by the Democrats to steal this election from President Donald Trump,” Chase said, criticizing new state laws that expanded early voting. “Through the legislation they passed this year, they created an opportunity to steal the election.”
The remarks came two days after police in Philadelphia arrested two of her supporters on weapons charges outside a vote counting center in Philadelphia following a tip from FBI agents in Norfolk.
Chase, who announced her candidacy in February, has embraced Trump in a way few other elected Virginia Republicans have. She’s also stood out for her vehement opposition to measures aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus pandemic — a stance she referenced with pride Saturday as she criticized her GOP colleagues for adhering to mask and social distancing guidelines.
“I don’t do COVID, by the way,” she said to cheers from the crowd of about 100. “I’m the only legislator in the General Assembly who does not wear a mask.”
The rally took place as most major media outlets called the election for Joe Biden.
Virginia’s governor’s race next year will likely be seen as one of the first tests of how Republicans run for office in the post-Trump era, and how potent Trump’s base might continue to be in GOP primaries.
Virginia Republicans have sent mixed signals in response to Trump’s apparent loss this week, at times pushing back on election-related misinformation and sometimes seeming to spread allegations the election was manipulated in Democrats’ favor.
Earlier this week, Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Rich Anderson released a statement saying he was confident Trump would win, “despite Democrats’ best attempts to manufacture votes in key states.”
Former House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, who is strongly considering running against Chase for the GOP gubernatorial nomination next year as a more rational-minded Republican, declined to respond to her comments Saturday. On Friday, Cox, a former high school civic teacher, posted a statement to social media calling for calm and saying “the American system is resilient.”
“We will count the legal votes, vigorously investigate irregularities and allegations of fraud, allow all sides to observe the process, and rely on the courts to resolve any disputes,” Cox said. “The best thing for now is for all of us to stay calm and allow our democratic process to work. We cannot lose faith in the rule of law and the American system.”
Some Democrats called Cox’s statement insufficient, reading his reference to “legal votes” and fraud allegations as bolstering the idea something was amiss with the election.
Cox had not commented on the race being called for Biden as of mid-afternoon.
Asked why no other GOP officials in Virginia appear to share her concerns about how the election was conducted in either Virginia or states disputed by Trump’s campaign, she said “because I’m the only elected Republican official with balls. That’s why.”
Del. John McGuire, R-Henrico, was the only other elected official to participate in the rally. He seemed to share Chase’s concerns about the election, but stopped short of making similar claims about widespread fraud in Virginia. “It’s not over yet,” he told the crowd. “I’ve been reporting strange things around Virginia to the Trump campaign.”
There have been no formal challenges to election results in Virginia, a process handled by bi-partisan local and state boards and through legal challenges. Pressed for evidence to back up her claims, Chase cited “information from election workers,” but offered no specifics beyond criticism of new voting procedures enacted by Virginia Democrats earlier this year.
At the same time as Chase advanced unfounded claims about the election, she criticized media reports about the arrest of two of her supporters in Philadelphia on firearms charges, calling for “an investigation to take place before we make any judgements.”
Law enforcement sources told the Philadelphia Inquirer they had received a tip from FBI agents in Norfolk that Joshua Macias and Antonio LaMotta, both of Chesapeake, were on their way to “straighten things out” at the Philadelphia Convention Center, where ballots were still being counted for the presidential election.
After locating the pair’s distinctive silver Hummer, which is decorated with Qanon stickers, police charged them with carrying weapons without the proper permits. On Friday, District Attorney Larry Krasner called the incident “alarming” and “still very much under investigation regarding additional charges.”
Both men have appeared with Chase at campaign events and LaMotta walked with her down the steps of the Capitol as she announced her campaign for governor.
After activists made the connection between the arrests in Philadelphia and Chase, she initially distanced herself, calling LaMotta a “friend of a friend” who “was just there supporting the team helping me with security on the day I announced.”
On Saturday though, she embraced the pair, calling reports of their arrests “complete and total bull crap.”
“These are veterans who are from Virginia and who love our country and were going there to — I don’t know what they were going for,” she said. “But they are supporters of mine. They are Virginia veterans of mine who conceal carry in Virginia and they’re concerned about our country.”