6/14/2019, 6 a.m.
Like many, we were surprised by the outcome of Tuesday’s Democratic primary election between state Sen. Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg and challenger Joe Morrissey of Richmond.
Mr. Morrissey, whose past legal and professional ethics troubles are too numerous and well known to recite in the limited space here, defeated Sen. Dance quite handily with 56 percent of the vote compared to Sen. Dance’s 44 percent.
Sen. Dance, a 71-year-old former nurse and health care administrator, has spent decades in public service. A former mayor of Petersburg, she served in the House of Delegates from 2005 to 2014, when she won a special election to replace former Richmond Sen. Henry L. Marsh III in the state Senate.
Her record in the Senate has been solid overall — working to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, increasing funding for public education at all levels, supporting women’s reproductive health rights and spearheading a “ban the box” bill that called for state agencies to remove from employment applications questions that would disqualify job seekers on the basis of a criminal record.
But Sen. Dance also failed initially to support Medicaid expansion in Virginia and embraced donations from corporate interests such as Dominion Energy to, as some claim, the detriment of her constituents and her area’s environmental health. Others say she was absent physically from the schools and neighborhoods in Petersburg that were struggling and needed her help.
Despite her many years of service, Sen. Dance was beaten largely by voters in her own hometown of Petersburg, although the majority black district includes Hopewell and portions of Richmond and Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George counties.
In the election post-mortem, which is certain to go on for days and perhaps weeks, we believe there are several immediate takeaways:
• That a district’s elected representative needs to be visible and present and actively addressing the basic needs of the people in order to be successful and/or to stay in office.
• That the big money of special interests cannot and should not supercede or co-opt the needs of the voters.
• That areas like Petersburg, with high concentrations of African-American voters, are so starved for attention and assistance that voters will respond to a candidate who gives them that — no matter how egregious his or her record of transgressions may be.
Mr. Morrissey, 61, a former city prosecutor who served in the House of Delegates, is a convicted criminal who has twice been disbarred from the practice of law in Virginia. He reportedly has a home in the 16th Senate District and one outside the district where his family lives.
He successfully employed the tried-and-true campaign tactic of tirelessly going door-to-door to connect with voters in the district. By winning Tuesday’s Democratic primary, he is pretty much assured a seat in the state Senate — and a paycheck — because Republicans have fielded no candidate for the November general election, and his only challenge could come from an independent candidate.
Mr. Morrissey, who won the primary by more than 1,800 votes, now must live up to the expectations he created for voters during the campaign.
In this age of Trump, where a shady and dishonest past is the new normal, we hope that Mr. Morrissey can deliver, for the sake of the people.