The Old Dominion is one of just two states that will elect a governor next year. (New Jersey is the other.) So far, just two Republicans have announced their candidacy — one, a relatively pragmatic former speaker of the state House of Delegates; the other, a state senator who boasts that she is “Trump in heels.”
The former, Del. Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights), is a well-liked conservative who at times has bucked hard-liners in his party. Two years ago, he voted to expand Medicaid in Virginia, which had one of the country’s most restrictive programs, thereby extending health insurance to hundreds of thousands of people after five years of Republican resistance.
The latter, state Sen. Amanda F. Chase is a gun-toting, race-baiting bomb thrower who has alienated much of the state legislature’s Republican caucus and was expelled from the local GOP committee in her home county of Chesterfield, in suburban Richmond. Nonetheless, party leaders regard her as a plausible threat to win the nomination for one main reason — her aggressive embrace of Mr. Trump, which has lately taken a turn from loyalty toward tyrannical lunacy.
In a Facebook post Tuesday, she recommended that the president maintain his grip on power by declaring martial law; she also told The Post she favors deploying troops to seize voting machines in order to find electoral fraud. Her prescription, par for the course in a Third World dictatorship, was condemned by some Virginia Republicans, including Mr. Cox. Plenty of others kept quiet, no doubt fearing the wrath of Mr. Trump’s base in the state.
By no means will Ms. Chase be the choice of everyone who voted for Mr. Trump in Virginia. But few underestimate the ardor of her backers, who are undeterred by her obscenity-laden tirade directed at Capitol Police officers in Richmond over a parking space last year, or her witless comment that “those who are naive and unprepared . . . end up raped.”
Her backers’ enthusiasm makes her a plausible candidate in the party’s hybrid nominating process next spring, in which preregistered delegates will cast their ballots at drive-through venues, each in their own congressional districts. Given the modest turnout expected at such a dispersed so-called convention — party insiders say that as few as 20,000 votes may be cast — the political dynamics are unpredictable.
The question for Virginia Republicans, who have not won a statewide race since 2009, is whether they’d like to reverse their drift to the radical right and become competitive again. If the GOP nominates Ms. Chase, it is almost certainly doomed in a state that President-elect Joe Biden carried by 54 percent to 44 percent. A more mainstream candidate such as Mr. Cox would be more plausible given Virginia’s tendency to elect a governor from the party that lost the previous presidential election.