Chase Files Again: State Senator Sues Virginia Republican Party

By Brian Carlton

February 10, 2021

Chase claims party members, not leadership, should choose a candidate.

RICHMOND-On Tuesday, Virginia State Sen. Amanda Chase filed her second lawsuit in less than two weeks. This time, the defendant was her own political party. Chase sued the Virginia Republican Party, claiming they acted illegally by using a convention to choose statewide candidates, rather than a primary.

“It’s official, I just filed a lawsuit against the Republican Party of Virginia,” Chase said in a statement. “They’ve chosen an illegal nomination method and have yet to remedy the situation. Unless something changes, the SCC, not the people, will choose our statewide candidates. We the People know best.”

Chase was referring to the Virginia Republican Party’s State Central Committee, which still can’t agree on how to choose candidates. On Dec. 5, the SCC decided to hold a convention this year, just as they have in the recent past, to select candidates. But two months later, the committee still can’t decide what type of convention to hold.

In a regular convention, delegates gather in one location. With a ban in place on gatherings of more than 10 people, that option would seem to be out. In an unassembled version, regional polling places are set up across the state. Yet, just like in the regular version, only certified delegates can vote. These delegates are selected by each local party and then have to pay convention dues, typically $35, in order to vote.

Chase argues that holding a convention restricts who will be allowed to choose the Republican candidate. Instead of the voters, party leadership picks their candidate. Republican leadership, meanwhile, points to Virginia’s laws. Anyone can vote in a primary here, so you could have Democrats come in and impact the final decision. That’s long been the Republican argument for why they use a convention. 

Who Picks the Candidates?

In her statement, Chase argues that party members, not leadership, should pick candidates.

“I will not stand by and allow a handful of partisans to choose our Republican nominees for statewide office,” Chase said. “If We the People are ever going to win again, the GOP must chose an inclusive nomination method that allows the people to participate and chose their next Governor.”

Her lawsuit, filed in Richmond Circuit Court, asks simply for a judge to issue an injunction. Basically, she wants the court to block the Republican Party from holding a convention.

Now there is somewhat of a precedent for this. Law professors Dogwood reached out to referred us to the 1994 case of Morse vs. the Republican Party of Virginia. Then, as now, the Party planned to hold a convention to nominate a candidate. In that case, they wanted to choose a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat.

Fortis Morse and two others met the criteria to serve as voting delegates, except they didn’t want to pay the registration fee. The three filed a lawsuit, asking a judge to block the Party from charging the fee, claiming it violated the Voting Rights Act. A district judge dismissed the case.

Other Legal Challenges

This isn’t Chase’s only legal battle at the moment. On Feb. 1, she sued the Virginia Senate, arguing their censure vote violated her constitutional rights.

A censure is basically a formal statement of disapproval. There are no penalties, no one is removed from office. It’s just a document saying at least a majority of the group disagree with your actions. 

The resolution adopted by the Senate accuses Chase of “conduct unbecoming a Senator”. It details a series of incidents over the last three years, ending with comments made after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In Facebook posts and videos, Chase called the people involved “patriots who love their country.” 

Her attorney Tim Anderson argues in the lawsuit that the Senate violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. As a result, she “suffered a loss in Senate seniority and was demoted to a rank equivalent to that of a newly elected senator,” the lawsuit claims. Before the censure, the Senate referred to Chase as the senior senator from Chesterfield. Now her title in the Senate is the junior senator from Chesterfield. That’s what the lawsuit refers to. 

The lawsuit also argues a censure vote damages her run for governor, as it reflects on her public image. In this case, Anderson asks for the judge to state the Senate violated her First Amendment rights and declare that “the Plaintiff did not engage in disorderly behavior.” 

The next hearing in that case is set for mid-March. A date hasn’t been set for her lawsuit against the Republican Party.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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