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Amanda Chase attacks Democrat Jennifer McClellan over leadership in Black caucus

Both women are vying on opposite sides of the aisle to be Virginia’s next governor

LEFT: Virginia Sen. Jennifer McClellan RIGHT: Virginia Sen Amanda Chase (AP Photo/Ryan M. Kelly) (Ryan M. Kelly, AP / WSLS 10)

RICHMOND, Va.Amanda Chase, a Republican running for Virginia governor as the self-described “Trump in heels,” said at a campaign event that a fellow state senator seeking the Democratic nod in the race would not “be a governor that supports everyone” because of her leadership in the legislative Black caucus.

The remarks about state Sen. Jennifer McClellan came during a campaign event, which Chase said took place Monday night. A video clip was circulated online by Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century.

“I support equal rights not special rights. You know, Sen. McClellan, she is the vice chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. ... And I said she will not be a governor that supports everyone,” Chase said in an apparent reference to a similar attack on McClellan last year.

In a statement, McClellan called the remarks bigoted and racist and said they have no place in Virginia politics.

“I’ve worked as Vice Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus to deliver generational change this session in education, health care, economic opportunity, the justice system, housing, the environment, and voting for all Virginians,” said McClellan, who has served 15 years in the General Assembly. “The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has been a force for progress for decades - progress that has benefitted every community of the Commonwealth.”

The day McClellan announced her bid for governor, Chase posted on social media: “She serves as the vice-chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. One thing you can be sure of - she is not for all Virginians.”

Those remarks were included in the censure resolution that Chase’s fellow lawmakers passed earlier this year, rebuking Chase for a “pattern of unacceptable conduct.”

Chase, who has represented suburban Richmond in the state Senate since 2016, is a Donald Trump loyalist who has leaned into the divisive partisanship that marked much of his presidency. She was booted from her own local Republican party and in late 2019 decided to stop caucusing with fellow Senate Republicans.

In an interview Tuesday, Chase said she stood by her remarks and called the Black caucus “racist.”

“They don’t represent all Virginia. They represent just Black Virginia,” she said.

Neither the executive director nor the chair of the caucus could immediately be reached for comment.

McClellan is known at the legislature as a thoughtful pragmatist who often has a hand in high-profile legislation. A mother of two, she was the first delegate to serve while pregnant. If elected, she would be the the nation’s first Black woman governor.

“As a Black woman in politics, I’ve faced racist attacks before, " she said. “But I will never let racism and bigotry get in the way of delivering progress for every community in Virginia.”

McClellan faces four other contenders - former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, Del. Lee Carter and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax - in the race for the Democratic nomination. Democratic voters will pick their nominee at a primary in June.

McAuliffe tweeted that Chase’s latest remarks were “just another example of how unfit she is to lead our Commonwealth.”

Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states electing governors this year. New Jersey’s Democratic incumbent is heavily favored to win reelection, so political observers across the country are keenly interested in Virginia’s contest.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is barred by law from seeking re-election.