Senator Amanda Chase Is What the Next Frontier of GOP Lunacy Looks Like
She texts with Boogaloos. Her QAnon-linked “security” pals were busted with guns en route to a Philly vote-count. Now she’s running for governor.
Virginia state Senator Amanda Chase and her staff wanted to be clear: She was experiencing a sinus infection, not COVID-19 symptoms. Just a little head cold. In fact, Chase told The Daily Beast on Friday shortly before stating that she would refuse a COVID-19 vaccine, she was already feeling much better.
Such a diagnosis would be very good news for Chase, but also her colleagues in the Virginia General Assembly. Chase, a far-right Republican and 2021 gubernatorial candidate, refuses to wear a mask during government session, forcing her at times to sit alone in a plexiglass quarantine box that she calls “the square of freedom.” Framed by sheets of wobbly plastic in these moments, Chase is a portrait of her political reality: isolated from her fellow Republican lawmakers and walled off by conspiratorial belief.
But Chase, who recently left the state Senate’s Republican caucus and was ousted from her local chapter of the GOP, is not alone. All year, she has stood shoulder to shoulder with members of far-right militant groups and conspiracy movements, some of whom would be arrested by year’s end. Now, in the twilight of 2020 and the Trump presidency, she’s playing the hits for the extremist crowd, lying about the vaccine, knowingly taking donations and “security” help from neo-Confederate and QAnon-linked extremists, and calling on President Donald Trump to overturn his election loss by declaring martial law.
Her gubernatorial campaign is an eerie preview of even stranger, more conspiratorial post-Trump Trumpism, even as her own state party grows increasingly uneasy with her antics.
In a Facebook post shortly after the Electoral College certified President-elect Joe Biden’s win, Chase falsely claimed the election was a sham and asked Trump to suspend the Constitution.
“Not my President and never will be,” she wrote of Biden, accusing him of cheating. “President Trump should declare martial law as recommended by General Flynn.”
Chase doubled down on those comments in a Thursday interview.
“This is a war for the ideals and foundations of the very country we have come to know and love since our inception,” she told The Daily Beast. “I truly believe with all my heart that the presidential elections were stolen.”
Some of Chase’s Republican peers condemned the remark, with Kirk Cox, her likely GOP primary opponent in the gubernatorial race, calling Chase’s statement “absurd and dangerous.”
Dangerous, certainly. For some of Chase’s fans, however, the comments were not absurd but the logical culmination of a year of increasingly militant activity.
On Jan. 20, Chase participated in a massive pro-gun rally in Richmond. The event served as a meeting ground for several extremist groups, among them the civil war-fantasist “Boogaloo” movement that became increasingly visible over the course of the year. She gave a speech standing next to the leader of the far-right paramilitary group the Proud Boys, as well as next to Joshua Macias, a member of a group called Vets for Trump.
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Chase and Macias would cross paths repeatedly in 2020, as documented by citizen journalist Kristopher Goad. Macias and another man, Antonio Lamotta, were by Chase’s side as “security” when she announced her gubernatorial run this year. They appeared with her in multiple photo-ops and videos, including one in front of Lamotta’s Hummer, which was festooned with a huge flag promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory.
To call Lamotta a conspiracy theorist and a Chase fan is an understatement. The Virginia man, a self-described martial arts expert, tweeted hand-drawn anti-Semitic comics showing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam participating in a baby-eating plot, and Chase (dressed in a karate uniform) beating up Northam with a pair of brass balls.
Those associations would come back to trouble Chase in November. Days after the election, when Trump’s loss was becoming clear and his fans accused Democrats of theft, Macias and Lamotta were arrested on gun charges in Philadelphia. Prosecutors accused them of driving there to interfere with the ongoing vote-count.
Chase initially downplayed her connection to the men after their arrests, when they were identified as her occasional bodyguards. Now she describes them as dedicated volunteers who started providing her security at the January gun rally, and continued doing so throughout the year.
“I was told that I was antifa’s No. 1 target and that I would be dismembered. I chose to go anyway,” she told The Daily Beast, adding that the men provided a “security presence” for which she was grateful.
Chase added that she thought their arrests were due to a miscommunication. “I think that people misunderstood their intent and their purpose,” she said. “I haven’t talked to them in months, but they are peace-loving people who love their country and they always carry [guns]. I mean, I always carry.” (Lamotta and Macias reportedly had an AR-15, spare parts, and an ammunition stockpile with them when they were arrested, and prosecutors said they falsely believed fake ballots were being counted.)
Whether Chase actually faced a dismemberment threat in the first place was somewhat dubious. The original gun rally was closely monitored by police. Richmond, Virginia’s most visible anti-fascist group, Antifa Seven Hills, said they had no such plans.
“Ms. Chase’s information is about as solid as her chances of winning the governor’s race. Antifa Seven Hills has not made any threats towards her physical safety,” the group told The Daily Beast, adding that they didn’t actually oppose the gun rally because they don’t support gun restrictions. “It’s pretty egotistical for her to think that she is a priority for us.”
In fact, the main (thwarted) threat to the rally was an alleged neo-Nazi plot to open fire on the crowd. But Chase has a history of telling followers to take up arms against imagined anti-fascist threats. In June, she shared obviously fraudulent Facebook posts that claimed anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter would be taking over suburbs and assassinating white families. Chase urged followers to be armed and ready.
A month after sharing those threats, Chase marched alongside an actual armed militant group.
On July 4, she attended a gun rally organized by Mike Dunn, the teenage leader of a Boogaloo group in Virginia. The Boogaloo movement, a broadly far-right and libertarian coalition, encourages members to prepare for extreme violence in what they believe is an imminent civil war.
Chase told The Daily Beast she didn’t know the movement’s beliefs at the time, and would not rally with Dunn again because some members of the Boogaloo movement oppose police. Sure enough, Dunn was arrested during an argument with police over a gun this summer.
But for her own part, Chase got in a fight with a police officer last year over a parking space. A police report said she accused the officer of violating “women’s rights” for not letting her park in the restricted spot, even though in the same conversation, she called a Senate clerk “Miss Piggy” who “get[s] to park her fat ass up front.” (Chase later said the police report “looks like it was written by democrat [sic] operatives.”)
Dunn said the rift was news to him. “She’s just saying that to the media,” he told The Daily Beast, adding that he texted with Chase occasionally, most recently “when one of her bodyguards was arrested” in Philadelphia.
Chase confirmed that yes, she had texted with Dunn, but that she hadn’t struck up the conversation. “I always respond to texts, even press or anybody,” she said. “I did respond to his text. I didn’t initiate a text but I responded to it.”
She said she was unaware, however, of one of her most controversial donors. George Randall, a member of the neo-Confederate group League of the South, has donated $300 to Chase’s gubernatorial race, campaign finance records show. Chase said she didn’t know of the white supremacist’s contribution, but that she wouldn’t give it back.
“You just open Pandora’s box when you get to that point,” she said. “Anybody can contribute to my campaign. I’m not going to return money.”
Randall’s involvement was enough to trouble a previous Virginia candidate. When Republican Corey Stewart ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, his campaign was littered with white supremacist ties, including security work and campaign contributions from Randall. Stewart’s campaign fell out of favor with some Virginia Republicans after those connections, as well as other campaign staff members’ racist social media posts and affiliation with a white supremacist march, came to light.
Chase’s campaign has made payments to at least one Stewart staffer: Campaign filings show multiple consulting payments to a firm owned by Matt Brown, Stewart’s former campaign manager. Brown’s firm provides Republican candidates with fundraising lists.
Chase hasn’t always been this far off the deep end, some state Republicans say. Early last year, for instance, she supported legislation that would grant in-state tuition rates to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, or DREAMERs. She later backwalked that stance.
“Flash-forward nine months later,” Mark Snesavage, chief of staff for another Virginia Senate Republican, told The Daily Beast, “when she was nervous about losing her re-election bid, she called her Democratic opponent a socialist for supporting the same idea she voted for.”
Snesavage recently launched Unfit Virginia, a single-issue PAC dedicated to quashing a Chase gubernatorial run. He theorized that Chase’s journey off the rails occurred when she felt she didn’t receive enough support from Senate Republicans in her re-election campaign in 2019. While feuding with her party, she found more loyal support from the gun rights movement.
“In my mind, that’s where she made the switch from passing legislation and important matters, to deciding which Facebook posts will get her the most attention,” Snesavage said. “Usually, that’s the most flagrant, idiotic statement she can think to put out there.”
Those posts range from claiming the Virginia Democratic Party “hates white people,” to claiming that “Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a socialist plot to make our nation give up the land our ancestors fought and died for!”
Between distaste for her comments and more procedural beefs, fault lines keep growing between Chase and the rest of her party. She left the state senate’s Republican caucus this year, and was ousted from her local Republican Party after she backed an independent candidate for sheriff, rather than the GOP pick with whom she had feuded in the past.
Now estranged from some of her fellow Republicans but enmeshed in extremist circles, Chase has spent the weeks after Trump’s defeat promoting far-right conspiracy theories. One of the loudest elected advocates for voter fraud hoaxes, Chase said that, before Election Day, she’d met with Sidney Powell, the former Trump attorney behind a disastrous series of bogus, failed lawsuits to overturn the election. (On Friday, Trump met with Powell in the Oval Office and flirted with the idea of appointing her special counsel to look into nonexistent fraud.)
The candidate’s instincts about the pandemic ravaging the country have been similarly detached from reality. From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chase claimed the virus was being “used by the liberalcrats and the socialist [sic] to push their agenda.” She split with her party on wearing face masks, leading to her isolation in the plexiglass box during government sessions.
And days after the COVID-19 vaccine began rolling out, Chase told The Daily Beast she would “absolutely not” get the shot because “many of the vaccines are actually manufactured in China.”
This is false. The COVID-19 vaccines are not being manufactured in China. Pfizer is manufacturing its vaccines in Missouri, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Michigan, as well as at a plant in Belgium. The other American-designed vaccine that recently received approval, from Moderna, is being manufactured in Massachusetts, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Switzerland (products from the Swiss plant are reportedly scheduled to go to the European Union, not the U.S.).
When Chase made those comments on Friday, she was only intermittently available, a staffer said, due to illness. Her main gubernatorial primary opponent, Kirk Cox, said he would have “no issue” getting vaccinated for COVID-19. The difference is the latest in a laundry list of departures between Chase and what’s left of the GOP establishment there, much of which has accepted Trump’s loss.
Chase, meanwhile, is trying to ride the outgoing president’s fame by calling herself “Trump in heels.” But if Trump lost America and got smoked in Virginia, how can she expect to win the state by styling herself after him?
That’s easy, since Chase doesn’t believe he lost at all.
“So did Trump win?” she answered. “We don’t know because of election fraud.”