Mor­ris­sey top­ples Dance in Rich­mond-area pri­mary

For­mer del­e­gate will likely go on to the state Se­nate in ab­sence of a Repub­li­can chal­lenger


Joe Mor­ris­sey, a for­mer mem­ber of the House of Del­e­gates and a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure in lo­cal pol­i­tics for decades, knocked off Sen. Ros­alyn Dance, D-Peters­burg, Tuesday in a pri­mary fight for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion.

Mor­ris­sey trounced Dance 56% to 44% in the 16th Dis­trict, which in­cludes parts of the city of Rich­mond and Ch­ester­field, Prince Ge­orge and Din­wid­die coun­ties, and all of the cities of Peters­burg and Hopewell.

Mor­ris­sey’s win was fu­eled by his sup­port in Peters­burg, a ma­jor­ity black city where his mes­sage of fix­ing schools and roads se­cured 3,354 votes of his dis­trictwide to­tal of 8,739 with 100% in, ac­cord­ing to un­of­fi­cial re­turns.

“We took the bat­tle to Peters­burg,” Mor­ris­sey said at Plaza Mex­ico restau­rant in Peters­burg, where he cel­e­brated his vic­tory, sur­rounded by his wife, Myrna, and four young chil­dren, one of whom yelled, “Daddy, you won!”

Mor­ris­sey also of­fered a re­buke for the Demo­cratic es­tab­lish­ment; Gov. Ralph Northam, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and for­mer Gov. Terry McAuliffe all backed Dance.

“What we have in the Demo­cratic Party is the top ech­e­lon dic­tat­ing, anoint­ing and ap­point­ing,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re not go­ing to let the top folks at the Demo­cratic Party de­ter­mine who the can­di­dates are go­ing to be.”

Yolanda Stokes, a cam­paign vol­un­teer and for­mer Hopewell regis­trar, said Tuesday, “Lord have mercy, I am so happy. We needed a change.”

At her elec­tion night event, Dance said Mor­ris­sey was able to cap­ture the lo­cal­i­ties where she has focused her work, in­clud­ing her home­town of Peters­burg.

“The ar­eas you work hardest for are the ar­eas he was able to in­flu­ence the most. It was all rest­ing on Peters­burg,” said Dance, who has held the Se­nate seat since 2014 and served in the House of Del­e­gates from 2005 to 2014.

On Mor­ris­sey’s mes­sage, which included fix­ing pot­holes and ad­dress­ing high wa­ter rates, Dance said: “He was run­ning a mayor’s race here in Peters­burg. Ul­ti­mately they be­lieved what he said, so he will get a chance to de­liver on all he promised.”

In two other key Rich­mond-area pri­maries on Tuesday: Com­mu­nity col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tor Ghaz­ala Hashmi de­feated civil lit­i­ga­tion lawyer Eileen Bedell and Univer­sity of Rich­mond law stu­dent Zachary Brown for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion to run against Sen. Glen Sturte­vant, R-Rich­mond; and Del. Debra Rod­man, D-Henrico, de­feated Veena Lothe, a lawyer spe­cial­iz­ing in civil rights and im­mi­gra­tion, for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion to run against Sen. Siob­han Dun­na­vant, R-Henrico.

Mor­ris­sey, a colorful and con­tro­ver­sial for­mer Rich­mond pros­e­cu­tor, served eight years in the House as a Demo­crat before va­cat­ing the seat in 2015 for an un­suc­cess­ful chal­lenge of Dance as an in­de­pen­dent.

Dur­ing his 30-year po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, he has bran­dished, some­times lit­er­ally, the im­age of “Fighting Joe” — a feisty pop­ulist who prides him­self on serv­ing con­stituents who are over­looked and un­der­served.

Mor­ris­sey’s rep­u­ta­tion also in­cludes a mis­de­meanor con­vic­tion of con­tribut­ing to the delinquenc­y of a mi­nor in­volv­ing re­la­tions with his then-17-year-old law firm em­ployee, whom he later mar­ried. His wife be­came a prom­i­nent fig­ure in his cam­paign and in­tro­duced him at the cam­paign kick­off in early April at the Satel­lite Restau­rant in South Rich­mond.

Af­ter the con­vic­tion, Mor­ris­sey re­signed his 74th House Dis­trict seat, re­claimed it in a spe­cial elec­tion, and then served a six-month jail term while serv­ing as del­e­gate dur­ing the day dur­ing the Gen­eral Assem­bly session in 2015.

He lost a bid for mayor of Rich­mond in 2016.

The Vir­ginia State Bar dis­barred him — for the sec­ond time in his le­gal ca­reer — a year ago, but he has ap­pealed the de­ci­sion.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view last week, Mor­ris­sey said he had put a “tremen­dous amount” of ef­fort into knock­ing doors in Peters­burg. Pulling out thick binders filled with voter in­for­ma­tion, he ex­plained how he con­nects with peo­ple by tak­ing notes from each con­ver­sa­tion and fol­low­ing up with a per­son­al­ized let­ter.

Asked how it would feel to re­turn to the Gen­eral Assem­bly af­ter all his trou­bles, Mor­ris­sey said he’s never been “one of these pomp and cir­cum­stance politi­cians.”

“I guess the great­est source of achievemen­t is that the peo­ple say: ‘There’s been some ob­sta­cles and set­backs along the way ... OK. Got it. We want him back in there,’” Mor­ris­sey said. “That would cer­tainly be ex­tremely re­ward­ing.”

Mor­ris­sey will likely go on to the state Se­nate in the ab­sence of a Repub­li­can chal­lenger.

The Dance-Mor­ris­sey race was among six pri­mary con­tests in the Rich­mond area Tuesday. In other re­sults:

Se­nate Dis­trict 10

Hashmi topped Bedell and Brown for the right to chal­lenge Sturte­vant in a dis­trict that in­cludes parts of Ch­ester­field County and the city of Rich­mond, plus all of Powhatan County.

If she de­feats Sturte­vant, Hashmi would be­come the first Mus­lim woman in the Vir­ginia Se­nate.

Hashmi said in a state­ment: “The peo­ple of the 10th Dis­trict need a se­na­tor who is com­mit­ted to the idea that ed­u­ca­tion is a pub­lic good, and it de­serves to be funded more, not less; they also de­serve a se­na­tor who knows that ac­cess to af­ford­able, quality health care is a right for ev­ery­one, not just a priv­i­lege for the wealthy few, and who isn’t afraid to stand up to spe­cial in­ter­ests so that we can pass com­mon sense gun safety re­forms.”

Bedell, who ran two un­suc­cess­ful con­gres­sional cam­paigns, had the early en­dorse­ment of Rep. Abi­gail Span­berger, D-7th. Ul­ti­mately, Hashmi out­raised Bedell and clinched the nom­i­na­tion with 49.4% of the vote.

Se­nate Dis­trict 11

Amanda Pohl, an advocate for vic­tims of sex­ual or do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, de­feated lawyer Wayne Pow­ell for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion to run against Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Ch­ester­field.

The dis­trict in­cludes a large swath of Ch­ester­field, and all of Amelia County and the city of Colo­nial Heights.

“We had a lot of grass­roots sup­port and a pos­i­tive mes­sage,” Pohl said.

Se­nate Dis­trict 12

Rod­man cap­tured 60% to Lothe’s 40%. The dis­trict is chiefly in Henrico, but in­cludes a por­tion of Hanover County.

Rod­man an­nounced her run for state Se­nate af­ter just one term in the House of Del­e­gates — a seat she won by de­feat­ing Del. John O’Ban­non, a 17-year Repub­li­can in­cum­bent. Rod­man had the early back­ing of Northam’s po­lit­i­cal team, which fielded crit­i­cism for boost­ing Rod­man in a race where two women of color had al­ready an­nounced runs.

House Dis­trict 68

Gar­ri­son Coward, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for a Rich­mond-based pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics firm, de­feated Lori Losi, an ac­coun­tant and fi­nan­cial con­sul­tant for a re­cruit­ment firm, in the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion fight to take on Del. Dawn Adams, D-Rich­mond.

The dis­trict in­cludes parts of the city of Rich­mond

and Ch­ester­field and Henrico coun­ties.

Coward, 29, ran as a busi­ness-ori­ented moderate Repub­li­can who would bring di­ver­sity to the Repub­li­can cadre in the House as an African Amer­i­can.

“I am deeply moved by the ex­pres­sion of con­fi­dence from all three lo­cal­i­ties,” Coward said. “We will con­tinue to run a cam­paign cen­tered around com­mon-sense ideas.”

House Dis­trict 62

Lind­sey Dougherty, a bud­get an­a­lyst for Ch­ester­field, and Ta­vorise Marks, re­gional co­or­di­na­tor for the Vir­ginia Fam­ily and Fa­ther­hood Ini­tia­tive within the Vir­ginia De­part­ment of Health, were in a tight contest for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion to run for a seat that is open with the re­tire­ment of Del. Ri­ley In­gram, R-Hopewell.

As of press time, the contest re­mained too close to call.

The Repub­li­can nom­i­nee is Carrie Coyner, a mem­ber of the Ch­ester­field County School Board.


Joe Mor­ris­sey kissed his daughter Kennedy, 6, as he cel­e­brated win­ning his Demo­cratic pri­mary race at Plaza Mex­ico in Peters­burg on Tuesday. He was joined by his mother-in-law, Dei­dre Warren (from left); as­sis­tant Ann Law­son; wife, Myrna; and his chil­dren.


Ghaz­ala Hashmi em­braced her hus­band, Azhar Rafiq, af­ter win­ning her pri­mary in the 10th Se­nate Dis­trict on Tuesday. Hashmi now faces Sen. Glen Sturte­vant, R-Rich­mond.




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