The race between Glenn Youngkin (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D) to be the next governor of Virginia is very close. Several recent polls show Youngkin ahead. When all the votes are counted Tuesday night, Youngkin could win.
But a top Youngkin surrogate, State Senator Amanda Chase (R), is asserting that, if Youngkin loses, it is because Democrats are committing election fraud. "I know how Democrats are cheating. And that information has been given to the Youngkin campaign," Chase said in an interview on October 27.
Chase, who competed against Youngkin for the Republican nomination, has since emerged as a key part of the Youngkin campaign. She has frequently campaigned on Youngkin's behalf, stumping solo and alongside Youngkin. Chase, who describes herself as "Trump in heels," is seen as an effective communicator to the Republican base.
Chase repeated her claims about election fraud on Facebook on October 29. "I know how their [sic] cheating. We know. Watching closely," Chase wrote.
In another Facebook comment, Chase suggested that voting machines in Virginia manufactured by Dominion and other companies were rigged.
These claims prompted Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) to write Chase and demand she turn over the "evidence of ongoing election fraud, cheating, or misconduct." Chase responded on Facebook, saying she would be "publicly releasing a full election report after the election on Tuesday, November 2, 2021." She said, without elaborating, that the "right people already have the information." Chase added that, after the election, she would turn over her evidence "to the most recently elected Attorney General," who she hoped would be a Republican instead of Herring.
None of this should come as any surprise to Youngkin or his campaign. In December 2020, Chase said that the "Democratic Party hijacked our 2020 Presidential Election and have committed treason" and encouraged Trump to declare martial law and order a new election. Chase was in DC on January 6 and addressed the crowd of Trump supporters. She later described the rioters as "patriots who love their country." In January, Chase was censured by the Virginia Senate for her comments in support of the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
After being censured, Chase continued to push false claims about election fraud. She appeared at the "Cyber Symposium" organized by Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow. The purpose of the symposium was to offer proof that Trump was defeated as a result of rigged voting machines.
Last month, Chase attended a "Take Back Virginia Rally" last month in support of Youngkin's candidacy. At the event, which was not attended by Youngkin, the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance to a flag that was carried in DC on January 6. Trump called into the rally to offer his support to Youngkin.
But the claims about election fraud in Virginia are not limited to Chase. They are also being advanced by other Youngkin surrogates and Trump.
Another Youngkin surrogate pushing false claims of election fraud
On October 27, Youngkin appeared at a rally in Blacksburg, Virginia with country singer John Rich. During his performance, Rich told the crowd that Stacey Abrams, a Georgia Democrat, was visiting Virginia to rig the election:
Why the hell is Stacey Abrams in Virginia right now? We know why she is here. She’s working on it. [...] Do you really think California voted for Gavin Newsom again? I don’t think so. Stacey Abrams was probably out there too.
Rich, a prominent Trump supporter, claims he is targeted by "big tech" because of his "loyalty to God, Country and family."
Trump releases two statements in one day claiming the Virginia election is rife with fraud
The claims by Youngkin's surrogates are being aggressively reinforced by Trump. On Monday, Trump released two separate statements claiming fraud was running rampant in Virginia.
"I am not a believer in the integrity of Virginia’s elections, lots of bad things went on, and are going on," Trump said in a statement released Monday morning. In addition to fraud, Trump suggested a Youngkin loss would be attributable to "perverts [who] are working overtime to try and convince people that [Youngkin and I] do not like each other."
On Monday afternoon, Trump released another statement warning that "[w]e must win bigger than the margin of fraud by flooding the polls with those who believe in America First."
Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist who received a pardon from Trump in Trump's final hours in office, is sounding similar themes about Virginia. "Democrats, they're going to steal it. They can't win elections, they don't steal. Right. They understand this is what they did in 20. It's time now to start calling them out, I'm tired of walking around on eggshells about this," Bannon said on October 29. Bannon made the comments to John Fredericks, a right-wing media personality who served as the chair of Trump's campaign in Virginia in 2020.
Youngkin slyly stokes voter fraud frenzy
Youngkin campaigns as a less threatening, more buttoned-up Republican. But he has still found ways to stoke voter fraud conspiracy theories.
During the primary campaign, Youngkin said "election integrity” was his top issue and "refused to say if Biden’s election was legitimate." After Youngkin secured the nomination, he initially acknowledged that Biden won. But just last month, Youngkin "refused to tell Axios...whether he would have voted to certify Biden’s election victory." (Later, his campaign said that he would have voted to certify the election.)
In an October 5 speech, tapping into issues promoted by Chase and Lindell, Youngkin called for auditing voting machines:
I think we need to make sure that people trust these voting machines. I grew up in a world where you have an audit every year, in businesses you have an audit. So let's just audit the voting machines, publish it so everybody can see it.
But Virginia is "already required to test voting machines before elections and to notify and invite local party leaders to watch." After the election, there is "a statewide audit of ballots."
Later, Youngkin's campaign said he was "referring to the existing state auditing process of voting machines."
Youngkin is walking a fine line. But his approach illustrates that questioning the legitimacy of the electoral process — and preparing to blame fraud for any close loss — will be an integral part of nearly all Republican campaigns moving forward.