RICHMOND, Va. - An aide traveling with Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Amanda Chase brandished an AR-15 pistol this week at a man who Chase said threatened them during a "road rage" incident.
Audio from Chase's campaign van was captured as the episode unfolded because Chase was participating by phone in a candidate forum put on by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights group. She was touting her staunch support for the 2nd Amendment when she abruptly excused herself.
"I've consistently voted against disarming law-abiding citizens, especially this patchwork - OK, we gotta go. I'm sorry, y'all," she tells the VCDL audience before she's heard sternly addressing the alleged road rager: "No. Stop."
There's a metallic clicking sound in the background and then a man in the van with Chase can be heard saying, "That'll get your b---- a-- in the car, won't it?"
A slightly flustered Chase immediately resumed addressing the VCDL, according to a recording of the forum that the gun-rights group posted on YouTube.
"Speaking of a 2nd Amendment moment, we just had to - oh my goodness - we are exercising our 2nd Amendment rights right now [in] our car, where we had somebody road rage, trying to get in front of - get on us," she said before asking the moderator to give her a few minutes to regroup.
The liberal super PAC American Bridge tweeted a clip of the audio Thursday, suggesting that Chase had brandished the gun. It was not clear from the audio who had done so, but in an interview, Chase clarified that it was one of her aides.
"In another normal day for the VA GOP, Amanda Chase apparently pulled a gun on a driver who tried to pass her while speaking at the VCDL's candidate forum," Liz Charboneau, the group's gubernatorial research director, tweeted along with the clip.
Nicknamed "Annie Oakley" for wearing a .38 special on her hip on the Senate floor, Chase says she never leaves the house unarmed. But in an interview Thursday, Chase said she was too focused on the forum to notice what was unfolding outside her campaign van.
That fell to Shayne Snavely, one of two personal aides with Chase that night. They'd left a campaign event in Virginia Beach and were somewhere around Norfolk, heading for Chase's home in the Richmond suburbs, when the driver of a sedan tried to run them off the road, said Snavely, who was at the wheel.
"I'm in the exit lane. This car starts coming over and, literally, beside us - pushing, pushing, pushing. I had to keep moving to the right," he said. "So then I slowed down and let him in front. And when he gets in front, they slowed down. The passenger actually opens the passenger door and is hanging out the door, literally standing up on the floorboard, screaming and making some kind of gestures. I then pass him and I go ahead and get off that exit."
Snavely said the sedan followed the unmarked campaign van for two or three turns, then pulled up beside the van as he stopped at a break in the median to turn back toward the highway. He said the passenger got out of the sedan and walked toward the van with one hand in his pocket.
"And yeah, he got a gun in his face," Snavely said, referring to the pistol he displayed through the closed window. "If he'd made two more steps, he'd [have] probably got shot."
He described his AR-15 as "a little bit of overwhelming force," but said the brandishing was justified to protect the senator, who in the past has said she has faced death threats.
Snavley said they did not report the incident to police, in part because he figured police would be busy with other matters and because he did not get the sedan's license plate number. Norfolk police did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether anyone had reported a brandished gun.
Chase has been a controversial figure within her own party since 2019, when she cursed at a state Capitol Police officer in a dispute over a parking space. An avid fan of President Donald Trump, she urged him to declare martial law as a means of hanging onto power after last year's election, and praised Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as "patriots." The lone state senator who refuses to wear a mask in the chamber, she voted during this year's legislative session from inside a plexiglass box that Senate staff created to protect others from possible coronavirus exposure.
Those are some of the things a bipartisan majority of fellow senators cited as they voted this year to censure Chase - something she touts on the campaign trail as a badge of honor.
American Bridge saw the episode as campaign fodder against Chase, one of seven Republicans seeking the party's nomination in a May 8 convention.
"If that was you [in the other vehicle], please get in touch," Charboneau's tweet said.
But Chase, who's cultivated a swashbuckling image as well as a second nickname, "Trump in heels," thought the episode drove home her gun-rights message.
"You never know, even driving on the campaign, when you're going to have exercise your 2nd Amendment rights," she told the forum audience moments later, when she was already chuckling over the whole thing. "And we just avoided a scene while I'm here doing this 2nd Amendment rally. I promise, this is not staged right now. Oh my gracious."