(AP) A judge has ruled against GOP candidate for governor Amanda Chase in her lawsuit over the state Republican party’s unsettled plans for this year’s nominating contest.
The ruling leaves the Republican Party of Virginia to continue trying to figure out for itself how it wants to pick its nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. So far, party leaders have been deadlocked over the issue.
“We’re pleased that the judge recognized our First Amendment rights to choose the method of nomination free from government intervention,” Chris Marston, the party’s general counsel, said after the hearing.
Chase, a state senator and far-right wing firebrand who’s gained national attention for a long series of controversial remarks and behaviors, has advocated for a primary. She was seeking a court order ruling out an assembled convention, a type of gathering her attorney argued would involve thousands meeting in person at a time when the coronavirus pandemic makes doing so unsafe and, at least for now, illegal under Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders.
Her attorney, Tim Anderson, said the Republican Party of Virginia needed “an adult in the room,” the judge, to tell them: “You’re on the wrong course. What you’re doing is unsafe, illegal and won’t be legal under any reasonable belief of how COVID is going to resolve between now and then.”
Lee Goodman, an attorney who argued the matter for the Republican Party of Virginia, said the party has months to decide what to do and noted that the current executive order expires soon and restrictions could change.
“This is a manufactured crisis,” he said.
Margaret Spencer, a retired judge serving as a substitute in Richmond Circuit Court, found Feb. 19 that Chase lacked standing to bring her claim and effectively granted a motion from the party to dismiss the case.
The party’s current plan does call for a statewide convention May 1, but that plan has not been set in stone and could be changed. Recently, a group of more than 30 committee members who have advocated for a primary instead of a convention sent out a letter pushing for a canvass or firehouse primary instead of a convention as a compromise. Unlike a true primary, a firehouse primary could be run by the party under its own rules, with far fewer polling places.
Chase has previously said she’s worried that if the gridlock over the nomination continues, the party bosses will simply choose a nominee themselves in what she calls a “nuclear option.” That’s a course party chairman Rich Anderson has acknowledged is a possibility.
Chase reacted with a tweet: “Apparently the Richmond Circuit Circuit is going to hand the noose to the RPV so they can go hang themselves. Sadly, the people of Virginia lost today.”
Chase said in a text message Friday afternoon that she would be conferring with her attorney about whether to file an appeal.
“I’ve at least raised awareness as to what they are doing and taken the smoke out of a smoke filled room,” she said. “The people are watching. They see what they’re doing and they’re not happy about it.”
Since being elected to the state Senate in 2015, Chase has alienated herself from the state’s GOP establishment, and she was recently censured by her Senate colleagues in a bipartisan vote. She’s suing over that, too.
Updated Feb. 19 to add details from the court hearing.