Republican gubernatorial hopeful Amanda Chase, who has previously bragged about being the only state senator who refuses to wear a mask, put COVID-19 safety concerns front and center as she unsuccessfully sought to force the Virginia GOP to switch its nomination method from a convention to a state-run primary.
“We are on a collision course with 10,000 people assembled in the time of COVID, and that’s just unacceptable,” Chase’s lawyer, Tim Anderson, argued during a hearing before a Richmond judge Friday. “That should be unacceptable to a court, not just because it violates the governor’s order, but it’s unsafe. It is unsafe, it is reckless.”
Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret Spencer rejected Chase’s request for an injunction barring the state GOP from holding a convention, not because doing so would be unsafe, but because she said Chase lacked standing to enforce Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order.
Chase, the frontrunner in early polls of the GOP field who describes herself as “Trump in heels,” has been pushing for a primary since she announced her campaign last year, briefly threatening to run as an independent after the state party’s central committee instead opted for a convention. Chase has said she believes a convention would be rigged against her.
Her public stance on COVID-19 safety measures and strong opposition to Northam’s executive order limiting large gatherings stood in stark contrast to the legal argument her lawyer raised on her behalf Friday, the same day she went viral on Twitter after The New York Times published a photo of the plexiglass box Senate staffers erected around her desk because she refuses to wear a mask.
Chase has touted her stance on face coverings during campaign events. During a rally late last year, she told cheering supporters, “I don’t do COVID. … I’m the only legislator in the General Assembly who does not wear a mask.” She’s also voiced strong objections to Northam’s executive orders limiting gatherings.
Asked about the apparent disconnect between her legal strategy and her public position on pandemic safety, Chase said Friday she had her supporters in mind. “I still don’t do COVID,” she said. “I just don’t. But that said, there are people who do. My parents do. A lot of my voters do.”
As for her concern about potentially violating the executive orders she has railed against, she said she just wanted to make sure “no tricky business happens,” positing that Northam might attempt to make arrests.
Lawyers for the Republican Party of Virginia countered in court that they haven’t definitively decided to hold an in-person convention yet and that Chase has no idea what restrictions will be in place this summer. Even if she did, they argued, it’s not her job to enforce them. They said possibilities still under consideration include a virtual convention or unassembled caucus, which function like traditional primaries but are planned and run by the party.
And even if the party, which has been deadlocked for weeks on the issue, can’t reach an agreement, they said the GOP could always hold the event at a large outdoor venue, noting 20,000 people attended the Super Bowl earlier this month.
“This is a manufactured crisis,” the GOP’s lawyer, Lee Goodman, said. “The party has months to make its decision.”
Anderson, Chase’s lawyer, retorted that even outdoors the convention would be “completely unsafe.” He went on to call the decision to allow fans attend the Super Bowl “wrong.”