The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Censure move goes forward against GOP contender for Va. governor

State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) objected to being stripped of her lone committee assignment following her remarks about U.S. Capitol rioters.
State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) objected to being stripped of her lone committee assignment following her remarks about U.S. Capitol rioters. (Bob Brown/AP)
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RICHMOND — All state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R-Chesterfield) had to do Friday to avoid a vote of formal censure from the state Senate was apologize for inflammatory remarks that included referring to rioters at the U.S. Capitol as "patriots."

But Chase couldn't quite bring herself to utter the words.

"If I have offended any of you in this room because I am very passionate about the Constitution, I apologize," Chase said — the only regret she expressed during her lengthy comments on the Senate floor.

That wasn't good enough for Sen. John J. Bell (D-Loudoun), who sponsored a censure measure against Chase, a candidate for Virginia governor.

"That fell far short of the apology that I was hoping for," Bell said in an interview. He said he had met with Chase several times in recent days to hammer out an agreement for an apology and had thought she was on board.

Three people with direct knowledge of the deal said Chase was to "clarify" her remark about patriots and offer a general apology for insults she has lobbed at Democrats, including suggesting that Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond), who is also running for governor, could never represent all citizens because she is an officer with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Instead, Bell said he now will move ahead with the censure resolution next week, charging Chase with conduct unbecoming a senator. He will take out language asserting that Chase violated her oath of office, he said, because some members felt that went into a gray area of free speech.

An unrepentant Chase stopped to listen to Bell speaking with a reporter and then accused Democrats of "incredible hypocrisy." Asked whether her statement had been intended as an apology, she said: "You know I speak from my heart. My remarks that I made on the floor today were measured and appropriate."

A censure is a formal rebuke that carries no penalties. The General Assembly has censured only one member in modern times, in 1987.

Earlier this week, the Senate stripped Chase of her lone committee assignment as punishment for her controversial actions and comments, including those related to the Capitol riot. Chase said the move was unfair to her constituents, leaving them without representation. Even fellow Republicans, whom she alienated in 2019 by cursing at a Capitol police officer over a parking spot, voted to take away her committee assignment, leaving Chase to cast the sole vote against her removal.

A self-proclaimed “firebrand” running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the style of former president Donald Trump, Chase addressed the Jan. 6 rally in Washington but left before the crowd breached the Capitol. On Facebook that night, she said she did not condone violence but expressed sympathy with rioters and called them “patriots.”

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“When you back good people, law-abiding citizens, into the corner, they will push back,” she said in a Facebook video. “When you cheat them of their elections, when you take away their constitutional rights and freedoms, you’re backing the patriots like myself into a corner. We would like to have a peaceful [resolution] to the events of today, but as you can see, there are many patriots that have already — we, we’ve had enough.”

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Chase has offered particular praise for Ashli Babbitt, the military veteran fatally shot as she broke into the Capitol.

On Facebook, Chase described Babbitt as a “veteran who was brutally murdered by Capitol Police today. . . . Babbitt was a 14-year veteran who served four tours with the Air Force. . . . These were not rioters and looters; these were Patriots who love their country and do not want to see our great republic turn into a socialist country.”

Speaking on the Senate floor Friday, Chase said she had watched the mob attack the Capitol on television. “I condemn the violence,” she said, and then blamed a public radio reporter who had quoted her comments about Babbitt for “promoting [the] narrative” that she supported the insurrectionists.

That prompted a fellow Republican, Sen. David R. Suetterlein (Roanoke), to rise to his feet in disbelief. “I never thought I would stand up and defend someone from public radio,” Suetterlein said. “[But] it’s unfair to malign the member of the press who simply quoted you.”

He then repeated Chase’s statement about the police killing Babbitt, and said those words are “something that requires a lot of reflection.”

Afterward, Bell said he was disappointed by the outcome. “Frankly, she made it worse today,” he said. “The honor of the body is at stake, and we have to do what we have to do because of that.”