RICHMOND — State Sen. Amanda F. Chase, a Trump-style Republican at odds with both parties in Richmond, announced on Monday that she will run for governor next year as a Republican — and failing that, as an independent.
She said she would seek the GOP nomination but would pursue an independent bid if the party denies her the nod.
Chase, 50, made the announcement on the sunny South Portico of the state Capitol before a cheering crowd of more than 100 supporters, many wearing orange “Guns Save Lives” stickers.
Chase first won attention last year for wearing a holstered .38 special on her hip on the Senate floor. Then came a string of controversies, including cursing at a Capitol Police officer over a parking spot, calling the Senate clerk “Miss Piggy,” and declaring rape victims to be “naive and unprepared.
The episodes led to her ouster from her local GOP committee and alienated Chase from Senate GOP leadership, which called her a threat to its efforts to hang onto its razor-thin majority in the chamber in the November elections.
But Chase — who embraced the criticism as a proof of fearless, politically incorrect straight talk — easily won a second term.
“People look at me and they say, ‘You know what? This girl’s got some brass balls,’ ” she said to laughs. “So you can throw whatever you want at me. ... I know with God, all things are possible and I won’t back down for anybody.”
In the Senate this year, Chase has continued to infuriate Republicans and Democrats alike. She quit the GOP caucus. She’s been stripped of all but one committee assignment — the lowly Local Government panel. Every one of the bills she sponsored solo this year was killed.
After winning a second Senate term last year, Chase said she planned to run for governor in 2025. But she has decided not to wait.
Chase, who has a background in finance, vowed to snap the GOP’s decade-long slide by “doubling down” on conservative issues such as gun rights.
“People are tired of weak-kneed Republicans,” she said. “They get in there and moderate to the middle. And so we have a brand and identity problem now. People don’t know if you’re a real Republican or a fake Republican. Well baby, I’m a real Republican.”
Chase is the first Republican to formally enter the race to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who by law cannot seek back-to-back terms. Pete Snyder, a Northern Virginia technology entrepreneur, has been publicly mulling a bid. Republicans have not won a statewide race since 2009.
Far more Democrats have expressed an interest in running, including former governor Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark R. Herring, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond), Del. Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (Prince William) and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.
Chase has been one of the most vocal advocates for gun rights in the Virginia Senate. When a joint House-Senate committee voted this year to ban lawmakers and the public from bringing firearms into the Capitol, she hinted that she would buck the rule by stowing her gun in her purse. As a lawmaker, Chase is not screened when entering the building.
As other suburban Republicans stuck to “kitchen table” issues during pivotal legislative races last year, Chase played up her staunch support for President Trump and gun rights and her fierce opposition to abortion.
Her clash with the Capitol Police officer and other controversies drew public rebukes from leaders of her own caucus. But that only bolstered her standing with some GOP activists, who rallied around her Trumpian bravado.
“She does not compromise on principle and she will fight for the people with every ounce of her being,” said Brandon Howard, chairman of the Hopewell Republican Committee, who attended her announcement.
Some GOP Senate colleagues reacted skeptically.
“Amanda just doesn’t have a level of substance, maturity or seriousness that Virginians expect in a gubernatorial candidate,” said state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham).