A Virginia Republican state senator says she's running for governor next year as an unabashed conservative whose top priority will be to promote gun rights.
Sen. Amanda Chase announced her candidacy Monday to a crowd of about 100 outside the Capitol on Monday, saying voters were unhappy with the state's new liberal direction under a Democratic majority — particularly on gun laws.
“I can't take it anymore,” Chase said.
Virginia has become ground zero in the country's gun debate, as a newly empowered Democratic majority seeks to pass several gun-control measures.
Chase is the first major candidate to formally announce a gubernatorial campaign. though several Democrats have indicated their interest in running. That includes Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Jennifer McClellan and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. Republican businessman Pete Snyder has also indicated an interest in running.
Current Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is not able to seek a consecutive term under state law.
A populist who often clashes with members of her own party, Chase represents a conservative district near Richmond and easily won reelection last year.
But she faces strong headwinds in a statewide race. Republicans have not won a statewide election in Virginia in more than a decade and the state's fast growing suburbs and urban areas tilt Democratic.
Chase said she believes she can reverse the string of GOP losses by increasing turnout among disaffected conservatives. She also left open the possibility she could run as an independent if she doesn't win the GOP nomination.
“People are tired of weak-kneed Republicans that get in there and moderate to the middle,” she said.
Her comments echoed the approach taken in 2018 by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Corey Stewart, who lost to U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine by 16 percentage points.
Chase has long been an outspoken gun supporter and used to openly carry a gun on the Senate floor and in committee hearings. A new Democrat majority at the General Assembly has banned guns in the Capitol this year and have passed number of gun-control measures this year.
Last year she issued an apology for losing her temper during an encounter with a police officer.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported at the time that Chase held up traffic and used profane language with a police officer when she was denied access to a secure parking area near the Capitol.
Chase said in her statement Tuesday that she wanted to use the secure parking area because she felt unsafe parking away from the Capitol. Chase also said the officer was rude and dismissive.
At her announcement Monday, Chase took questions from reporters and supporters. The closing question came from a supporter, who asked which country is the best in the world.
The crowd chanted “U.S.A.!" and then, with the same cadence: “Governor Chase.”