Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, said Saturday that she will run for governor as an independent after Virginia GOP leaders voted to pick the party’s 2021 statewide nominees in a convention rather than in a primary.
“It’s the only way to bypass the political consultants and the Republican establishment elite,” she wrote in a Facebook post, stressing that she remains a Republican but will not seek the party’s nomination in a convention.
An independent bid by Chase could split the GOP vote with the Republican nominee, whether former Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, or another Republican who has not yet entered the contest.
“I refuse to be a victim of the dysfunction of the Republican Party,” Chase said in a phone interview, noting that she announced her bid nine months ago. “I’m not the one splitting the vote, they are.”
Cox ripped Chase in a statement.
“Amanda Chase’s antics have long grown more than tiresome. Her threat to run as an independent is based solely on the fact that she knows principled, conservative Republicans will never tolerate the demagogue she has become.
“She could participate in this nomination contest, but instead she will fade from relevance as loyal Republicans continue to focus on putting our conservative principles to work solving the challenges people face daily in this Commonwealth under weak and misguided Democratic rule.”
To qualify for the November ballot Chase must obtain the signatures of 10,000 qualified voters, including at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 U.S. House districts.
The party’s State Central Committee, meeting virtually, initially voted 39-35 with two abstentions to pick its 2021 candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in a party-run convention rather than in a state-run primary.
Michael Ginsberg, a representative of the 11th Congressional District on the State Central Committee, urged a convention, saying it would help the party nominate a candidate for governor who can command broad support in the state GOP.
He said he was concerned that in a primary for governor that could draw as many as four to six strong candidates, a candidate could win the nomination with as little as 30% to 35% of the vote. As a result, he said, a nominee could head into the general election in a weak position.
“I see us heading straight for an iceberg as a party,” Ginsberg said in arguing against a primary.
Tara Carroll, a representative of the 7th Congressional District on the State Central Committee, spoke in favor of a primary. She said COVID-19 likely would result in a postponement of a convention.
Carroll also said conventions can be exclusive and make attendance difficult for young parents, students and military personnel due to time, financial and travel constraints.
A number of convention proponents on the State Central Committee said they back an “unassembled convention,” a party-run process in which Republicans vote within their congressional districts, rather than a standard convention — a meeting that could draw hundreds of people to one place.
Agreeing to hold an unassembled convention would require a subsequent vote by the party’s ruling body.
Following extensive discussion on whether to reconsider or delay the decision, the State Central Committee again voted — on a 41-28 tally — to nominate its candidates in a convention rather than a primary.
Republicans have not won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009, when Bob McDonnell led a GOP sweep for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In recent years the party has nominated its statewide candidates in primaries.
So far, Cox and Chase are the only Republicans who have announced runs for governor.
The party’s announced candidates for lieutenant governor are Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, former Del. Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax, Northern Virginia business consultant Puneet Ahluwalia, and Lance Allen of Fauquier County, an Air Force veteran who works for a national security and technology firm.
The announced Republican candidates for attorney general are Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, and Chuck Smith, a lawyer who was the Virginia Beach GOP chairman from 2006-2008.