RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A firebrand conservative Virginia state senator seeking the Republican nomination for governor filed a federal lawsuit Monday that seeks to undo her legislative colleagues' recent decision to censure her for an alleged “pattern of unacceptable conduct.”
In a bipartisan vote last week, the Virginia Senate approved a measure rebuking Sen. Amanda Chase over a series of incendiary incidents during her tenure, including remarks in which she seemed to voice support for those who participated in storming the U.S. Capitol last month. The decision to pass the censure resolution followed a long debate that featured scathing criticisms of Chase from both Democrats and Republicans.
In the lawsuit, Chase argues that she is being "singled out and selectively penalized for taking unpopular political positions."
Chase alleges that she has suffered "public embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish and loss of seniority" because of the censure and has been “negatively impacted” in her candidacy for higher office.
Democratic Sen. John Bell, who sponsored the censure resolution, said while Chase has the right to seek remedy through a lawsuit he is confident the court will deny her requests.
Last month, Chase used a floor speech to defend Ashli Babbitt, a woman who was fatally shot by U.S. Capitol Police during the January insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Chase herself is one of many state lawmakers from around the country who attended a rally shortly before the attack on the Capitol, but she was not part of the group that later stormed the building.
“We remember Ashli, and the three who died of medical emergencies and the Capitol Police officer who died during the chaos at the Capitol. These were not rioters and looters, these were patriots who love their country and do not want to see our great republic turned into a socialist country,” she said at the time, sparking an outrage.
She later said that when she referred to “patriots,” she meant people she was standing with at the nonviolent rally “before all the mayhem took place,” including veterans and police officers.
Chase had previously called for martial law to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. She repeated former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, and lost access to her Facebook account after falsely blaming leftist activists for the Capitol insurrection.
The censure resolution also took aim at Chase for calling the Democratic Party of Virginia “racist to its core," for berating a Capitol Police officer amid a dispute over parking, and for making offensive remarks about the Senate clerk, Susan Clarke Schaar.
The lawsuit, which Chase threatened to file last week, seeks an injunction preventing the Schaar from allowing the publication of the censure resolution in the chamber's official journal.
It also asks the court to issue a judgment that the censure violated Chase's First Amendment rights and order the expungement of the censure. Chase, who was recently demoted in seniority, is also seeking to have her rank restored.
Named as plaintiffs are Schaar, and the Senate of Virginia through Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who in his role presides as the president of the chamber and oversees its daily work.
Schaar declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Fairfax spokeswoman Lauren Burke said in a statement: "The right to due process for all is of paramount importance in our system. We will await the court’s review of this matter.”
The lawsuit notes that Fairfax warned the senators last week about a procedural issue with the resolution, saying the item was not properly before them. The senators voted to go ahead with the censure anyway.
Partially on those grounds, Chase argues in the lawsuit that her rights were violated.
Bell said Chase was given the chance to apologize and denounce and condemn white supremacists and anti-Semitic groups who sought violence at the Capitol, and she chose not to do that.
“She was definitely given due process along the way, and myself and everyone else gave her a chance to speak her piece,” he said.