Morrissey announces Senate bid as G.A. officials close his House office

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 3/26/2015, 10:51 a.m.
Joseph D. “Joe” Morrissey once again is injecting drama into staid Virginia politics. In a fresh twist to his political ...
Mr. Morrissey

Joseph D. “Joe” Morrissey once again is injecting drama into staid Virginia politics.

In a fresh twist to his political career, the combative legislator quit the House of Delegates this week to begin his quest to replace incumbent Rosalyn R. Dance of Petersburg in the state Senate.

His move comes barely two months after he defied Democratic and Republican House leaders and won a special election as an independent to keep his seat in the 74th House District after being convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor. That conviction forced him to commute to the legislature from jail on work release, the first Virginia delegate ever to do so.

Confirming a Free Press report last week, Mr. Morrissey, who was released from jail earlier this month, stood with about 35 supporters in front of the Temple of Judah in Church Hill on Wednesday to announce his bid for the 16th Senate District seat and his departure from the House of Delegates.

The Senate district stretches from Richmond — including the city’s East End — to Petersburg and includes parts of Hopewell and of the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George.

Mr. Morrissey will take on Sen. Dance in the June 9 Democratic primary, along with another announced candidate, Petersburg Delegate Joseph E. Preston, who also is giving up his seat in the House.

Another candidate might be preparing to enter the race — pastor and Richmond School Board member Derik Jones, who was circulating petitions Wednesday to run. Dr. Jones, son of Mayor Dwight C. Jones, could not be reached for comment and had yet to file at Free Press deadline.

Mr. Morrissey promised to be a voice “for the little guy” and to provide the same constituent services that he said had been a hallmark of his eight years as a delegate.

He also said he would stand in contrast to Sen. Dance, whom he said voted with Republicans to expand the death penalty and allow a state takeover of Petersburg’s public school system. Mr. Morrissey said she also voted to approve GOP-devised budgets that eliminated funding for GRTC’s Petersburg service and to expand Medicaid.

“Mr. Morrissey is being shameless in trying to misrepresent my record,” Sen. Dance retorted in a quick statement. Describing herself as an “effective senator” and ready to defend her record, she said “Mr. Morrissey … cares so little for his constituents that he abandoned them just after being re-elected.”

At Mr. Morrissey’s announcement news conference, Coleman Pride, a Morrissey critic, stood facing Mr. Morrissey and behind TV cameras holding up a sign saying he is the father of the young woman with whom Mr. Morrissey was convicted of having a sexual relationship while she was 17, or underage. Now 19, Myrna Pride just a delivered a son on March 14 in an Atlanta hospital. Neither she nor Mr. Morrissey has disclosed the child’s name or paternity, despite speculation that Mr. Morrissey is the father.

During the news conference, Mr. Morrissey turned aside a question about Ms. Pride and the baby, saying he would have something to say at a later time. He played down the significance, saying the people he meets “are more interested in the issues that affect them than in my love life.”