In the state Senate, Democrats have sought to censure Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R-Chesterfield), who gave an inflammatory speech at the Jan. 6 Trump rally in Washington and later praised the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol.
On Tuesday, the censure proposal cleared a committee vote, and the full Senate also voted to strip Chase of her lone committee assignment. Last year, Chase was removed from three other committee posts after her decision in late 2019 to quit the Senate Republican Caucus to protest the reelection of caucus leaders who had criticized her after a string of controversies, including cursing at a Capitol Police officer over a parking spot.
Chase objected strenuously to Tuesday’s move, threatening legal action and calling it an effort to undermine her bid for this year’s GOP gubernatorial nomination.
While fellow Republicans did not support the censure effort, saying it infringed on her right to free speech, they did support removing her committee assignment and delivered some of the harshest rebukes to her in floor debate.
“Do you represent the people of your district or do you represent your personal ambitions?” Sen. Mark J. Peake (R-Lynchburg) asked.
The conflict is the latest example of friction within the General Assembly over support for Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud and the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that left four rioters dead, as well as a Capitol Police officer.
Although Biden won Virginia by 10 points, a trio of Republican delegates wrote to Vice President Pence on Jan. 5, urging him to nullify the state's electors and conduct an audit of the vote tally. Last week, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) responded by stripping a committee assignment from each of the three delegates, with her spokesman saying the three were trying to "disenfranchise" Virginia voters.
Two of the delegates — David A. LaRock (R-Loudoun) and Ronnie R. Campbell (R-Rockbridge) — wrote to Filler-Corn over the weekend and demanded to be reinstated. LaRock said Tuesday that he is considering legal action.
“It is an abuse of power to retaliate against an act of free expression,” LaRock said in an interview. “I’m in consultation with lawyers as to how best to proceed.”
Filler-Corn’s office dismissed the challenge.
“Delegate LaRock and Delegate Campbell continue to exhibit exceedingly poor judgment and a lack of contrition for their actions. In light of a deadly riot, spurred by the falsehoods they helped to peddle, this is the last time one should be leveling threats,” Filler-Corn spokesman Kunal Atit said in an emailed statement.
LaRock, who attended the Jan. 6 rally in D.C. but did not take part in the violence at the Capitol, had written a letter to Pence that was also signed by Campbell and Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Spotsylvania).
“Should you, as Vice President, announce a winner based on a tally of unconstitutionally and fraudulently elected Presidential Electors, it would create a rent in the fabric of the nation,” the letter stated.
Shortly after the House convened its 2021 session on Jan. 13, Filler-Corn announced that she had removed LaRock, Campbell and Cole each from a single committee. That leaves each delegate serving on two panels instead of the more customary three.
“Their attempt to cast doubt on our elections process in order to impede the peaceful transfer of power between one President to another is an affront to our democracy and violates the public trust,” Atit, Filler-Corn’s spokesman, said last week in a prepared statement.
LaRock had said shortly after being removed from the House Transportation Committee that he would not contest the action.
But LaRock said Tuesday that after he saw Filler-Corn’s justification, he decided that his removal had been improper.
“If I had been taken off the committee and given no reason, that would be within her power,” LaRock said. “Being removed from a committee as retaliation for exercising my freedom of expression” is a different matter, he said.
House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) on Tuesday accused Filler-Corn of using a double standard by acting against the GOP delegates but ignoring Democratic delegates who participated in protests against police brutality over the summer, including at least one who was pepper-sprayed during a confrontation with police.
“If she’s going to punish people for behavior that she views as inconsistent with the expectations of this body, then she should treat everybody fairly, and she hasn’t done that,” Gilbert said. “This was purely a political retribution meant to satisfy her side and her base.”
Asked whether he stood by the trio’s letter to Pence, Gilbert said “they were merely asking for a delay so some of the discrepancies so prominently displayed all across the country could be investigated.”
Cole, who did not sign LaRock’s letter to Filler-Corn, told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star last week that he was not surprised at losing the committee assignment.
“I figured they would do something,” he said. “It is what it is. The speaker’s free to do whatever she wants to do.”
Campbell could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But he wrote in a Facebook post last week that Filler-Corn had acted “arbitrarily” and “in retaliation” for his statements in the letter.
He defended his position as part of his “sworn duty to uphold Virginia’s Constitution,” claiming that changes to state elections policy enacted last year by the General Assembly had been handled improperly and caused him to doubt the election results.
LaRock, too, has stood by his claims that the presidential election was improper, and that allegations of voter fraud nationwide were not investigated, even though dozens of federal judges and Republican elections officials have found no substantial evidence.
Asked Tuesday if he recognized Biden as the president-elect, LaRock said: “I’m not going to answer that question at this time.”