Senate censures Chase; removes her seniority

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By a vote of 24-9 with six abstentions, the Virginia Senate censured Chesterfield Sen. Amanda Chase on Jan. 27.

It was only the second time in state history that a senator has been censured. The first was Sen. Peter K. Babalas (D-Norfolk) in 1987 for unethical conduct. That vote was 25-14.

The censure of Chase was for failure to uphold her oath of office, misuse of office and conduct unbecoming a senator.

Three Republicans — Tommy Norment of James City County, Bryce Reeves of Spotsylvania County and Jill Vogel of Fauquier County — joined all 21 Democrats in voting for the censure.

In response, Chase called out Norment and Reeves, among others, for their conduct.

Chase said “every word” of eight counts in Senate Resolution 91, which was sponsored by John J. Bell (D-Loudoun County), “is politically protected free speech.”

Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond), who also represents eastern Chesterfield County, said that several of the eight counts against Chase were constitutionally-protected by the First Amendment. Morrissey asked Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) whether proper procedure had been followed regarding the resolution. Fairfax, who presides over the Senate, ruled that the resolution should have gone to the Committee on Privileges and Elections for an investigation and report to the full body. That didn’t occur for the amended resolution, but the Senate overrode Fairfax’s ruling, 29-8. Vogel and five Republicans voted to uphold Fairfax’s ruling, along with Morrissey and Sen. John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke). Republican Bill Stanley of Franklin County abstained after walking out following his speech, where he strongly criticized Chase.

Stanley said that Chase was “a breath of fresh air” when she first came to the body in 2016. She “started out really good,” Stanley said, noting that she got behind a coal ash bill and one that did away with “red tape.” However, he said “thick skin has not grown on this senator” and accused her of lying on the Senate floor.

“She spent last night on Twitter attacking Norment and his family,” Stanley said.

“If it weren’t for double standards, there would be no standards at all in this body,” Chase said. “As I look around the room and see the number of people arrested and charged with crimes … and have the audacity to stand on the floor of the Senate and condemn me, how dare you,” she said, noting that she has not been charged with a crime or arrested.

Chase called out Norment and noted that she left the Senate Republican caucus last year “because of your affairs and lying and conflicts of interest and multiple charges. I did not want to sit under your leadership. Your behavior does not fit that of a sitting senator and is unbecoming to this body.”

Referring to Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), Chase said that Lucas has been arrested and charged with two felonies and “told law enforcement to stand back so your rioters could tear down a statue in which a gentleman sustained life-threatening injuries.” The charges were later dismissed.

Chase said that Reeves told her on the Senate floor, “I’m going to take you out, Chase.”

She said that Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) participated with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney last summer in “numerous protests and riots that ended in the destruction of our streets. We had people that were killed, law enforcement officers who had bricks thrown at them.”

She also noted that Morrissey had legal issues as well.

“The amount of hypocritical language that I have heard in this body is beyond the pale,” Chase said.

During his remarks, Morrissey said that he tried to avoid the censure by getting Chase to apologize for hurtful comments against Lucas and denounce certain groups who were in attendance at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, specifically white supremacists and those who wore anti-Semitic T-shirts. The previous week, Chase had given a general apology — which Norment on Jan. 26 called “an appalling unapology” — and denounced violence.

Bell’s original resolution called for Chase to be censured for “fomenting insurrection against the United States” on Jan. 6.

In regard to the original resolution, Morrissey said the Democratic caucus had engaged in a “knock-down, drag-out fight over it” in regard to whether Chase should be censured. Morrissey earlier told the Village News that he and Sens. Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax) and Lynwood Lewis (D-Eastern Shore) had First Amendment concerns related to the censure.

In the end, the approved censure placed Chase last in line in seniority of its members.

Near the end of her response, Chase said, “I will not be without remedy to clear my name,” alluding to a possible lawsuit.

The eight items cited in the approved censure include:

•her comments to a state Capitol Police officer on March 22, 2019, in which Chase swore and made derogatory remarks about Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar;

•used social media to identify the names and office contact information of senators;

•stated that “it’s those who are naive and unprepared that end [up]raped;”

•suggested that McClellan, as vice-chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, is “not for all Virginians.”

•said “I don’t do COVID.”

•made claims that the recent election was stolen and said, “We are at war. The Democratic Party hijacked our 2020 Presidential Election and [has]committed treason. Where the hell are the Republicans?”

•claimed that the “Virginia Democratic Party is racist to its core” after Democratic officials asked a white Richmond registrar (J. Kirk Showalter) to step down over issues related to management of the election;

•and called those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 “patriots who love their country” and declined to renounce white supremacists, anti-Semites and those who breached barricades, broke into the Capitol and disturbed and defaced it.

Prior to the vote, Chase said the patriots that she was referring to “were the ones I was standing with before the mayhem took place … these were peace-loving people who just disagreed with the outcome of the election.”

“I denounce white supremacy … and those who wore the T-shirts and other attire with anti-Semitic messaging … I have condemned violence … I condemn anyone who committed violence or broke the law,” she said. “I’m sorry that I’ve hurt a lot of your feelings in this room.”

Although the censure didn’t mention it, Chase posted on her Senate Facebook page that Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old woman and Air Force veteran who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, “was brutally murdered by Capitol Police.” The Washington Post reported that Babbitt was a Q’Anon follower, Trump supporter, registered Libertarian and voted for Barack Obama.

On her Twitter page on Jan. 27, Chase criticized Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) for saying, “It’s sad that [Babbitt] got a bullet put in her … they probably should have put five bullets in her.”

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