Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, sets up his computer during the veto session at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, VA Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, sets up his computer during the veto session at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, VA Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The House members were meeting outside in a tent instead of the House Chamber in order to practice social distancing due to the COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/POOL/Bob Brown).

Everyone expects the presidential outcome to loom large over Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial election. But the Republican nominating battle is beginning with a bizarre split between GOP candidates over who the rightful president will be come 2021.

In a Facebook post this week, Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, said she would “never accept” President-elect Joe Biden as the nation’s leader and urged President Donald Trump to “declare martial law” as he continues to try to challenge the result.

But the outcome only solidified this week as the Electoral College convened in state legislatures to affirm Biden’s victory, a development that seemed to prompt former House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, to acknowledge Biden’s victory for the first time.

Senator Chase’s suggestion that martial law be imposed is absurd and dangerous,” Cox, a former high-school government teacher said in a news release. “I taught government for 30 years and have great respect for our constitutional republic. Per that system and the electoral college vote yesterday, Joe Biden will be the next president.”

Cox and Chase will compete for the nomination at a convention next year, a campaign that will be one of the first major tests of how strong Trumpism’s grip will be on conservative voters when Trump has left the White House. 

Virginia State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, arrives in the temporary Senate chambers at the Science Museum of Virginia prior to the start of the Senate session at the facility Tuesday Aug. 18, 2020. Chase is the only member of the Senate who refused to wear a mask during the legislative session. (AP Photo/Steve Helber/Pool)

Cox, who lost his majority in the Va. House last year in large part due to Trump’s unpopularity in the suburbs, is hoping to win back some of those areas with an emphasis on kitchen-table issues, without alienating Trump voters whose support he’ll need at the GOP convention. Cox had previously said the election challenges should be heard, but his statement Tuesday seemed to acknowledge there’s nothing left to play out.

Running as a Trump-style populist with a heavy emphasis on gun rights, Chase’s suggestion that Trump use the military to secure a second term was the latest of many inflammatory comments that have drawn condemnation from some mainstream Republicans.

Two armed Chase supporters were arrested outside a vote-counting facility in Philadelphia last month, but that episode doesn’t seem to have led the senator to dial down her rhetoric. 

On Facebook, former Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling urged Virginia Republicans to reject Chase and her style of politics.

This woman is not only a loose cannon, but she is dangerous,” Bolling said. “Calling for a declaration of martial law is about the most irresponsible thing I can imagine.”

Chase also claimed she’s working with Sidney Powell, a pro-Trump lawyer who has filed multiple election-related lawsuits but produced little evidence to substantiate her sensational claims, to expose “extensive voter fraud” in Virginia.

But there was no controversy Monday at the state Capitol as Democratic electors gathered to cast Virginia’s 13 Electoral College votes for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Former Del. John O’Bannon, the lone Republican on the state Board of Elections, gave a fairly routine opening prayer in which he asked God to guide political leaders to wise decisions and protect health care workers on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We ask that you help us heal our divisions, settle our differences and work together for the betterment of all your children,” O’Bannon said.

With Trump still not conceding, it’s unclear how many Republicans are willing to say they share O’Bannon’s desire for healing.

Virginia Reps. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and Rob Wittman, R-Montross, all signed onto an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit that sought to derail the presidential election results from four battleground states. 

The U.S. Supreme Court promptly rejected it. New Republican Congressman Bob Good has also amplified baseless claims about a rigged election, speaking at a rally of Trump supporters in Washington last weekend during which he called the pandemic “phony” and accused Democrats of stealing votes.

Congress still has to formalize the election results on Jan. 6. According to The New York Times, some Republicans want to use that process to make another last-ditch effort to overturn Biden’s win.

January 6 will be a big day,” Chase said in her post, which also included a link to donate to her campaign. “Keep praying and keep the faith.”