Surry voters now have say in Morrissey reelection bid

Published 4:55 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

Surry County voters will have a say this spring as to whether a controversial Virginia legislator gets to run for reelection in November.

Virginia’s Supreme Court adopted redistricting maps in 2021 based on the 2020 Census that moved state Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Petersburg, from the 16th Senate District to a newly redrawn 13th District that now includes Surry County.

The district includes Surry, Sussex, Charles City, and Prince George counties, the cities of Hopewell and Petersburg, and parts of Dinwiddie and Henrico counties. The area of eastern Henrico included, with its more than 52,000 registered voters, is the most populous included locality, followed by Prince George and Petersburg. The three collectively account for more than 60% of the district’s registered voters. Surry voters only comprise 3.76%.

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There are two candidates challenging Morrissey for the Democratic nomination in a June 20 primary. 

According to reporting by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, former Del. Lashrecse Aird, the Petersburg Democrat who lost to Del. Kim Taylor, R-Petersburg, by a slim margin in 2021, announced last year she would run for the 13th District. Angela Rowe, a former Henrico County Board of Supervisors member, has also announced her candidacy for District 13 seat as a Democrat.

Eric Ditri of Prince George County, a loan officer for a mortgage company, is running for the seat as a Republican. According to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project, the 13th District’s share of votes from the 2021 governor’s race favored former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, by nearly 14 points over Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Morrissey has seen his time in the General Assembly riddled with scandals. According to reporting by Newsweek, Morrissey resigned his House of Delegates seat in 2014 and pleaded guilty that same year to taking indecent liberties with a minor, possession and distribution of child pornography, and other charges relating to his 2013 sexual relationship with his then-17-year-old intern, Myrna Pride. He won the January 2015 special election to fill his own seat while serving three months in jail. As of 2019 when he won his current Senate seat, he’d been jailed or arrested five times and had his law license suspended twice. Former Gov. Ralph Northam, during his final week in office in 2022, pardoned Morrissey for his sex crimes against Pride, who is now Morrissey’s wife. Last month, according to reporting by Richmond CBS affiliate WTVR, Henrico Sheriff Alisa Gregory banned Morrissey from visiting the county’s jail facilities for 90 days following an incident in late January when he left his three children unattended in the jail lobby while he and an associate met with an inmate.

Morrissey, known as “Fighting Joe” to his supporters, served as one of three chief co-patrons of legislation that raised Virginia’s minimum wage in 2020 from $7.25 per hour to the current $12 per hour rate that took effect Jan. 1.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct that Morrissey pled guilty to indecent liberties, not independent liberties.