13th Senate District Democratic primary candidate profile: Joe Morrissey

Published 1:26 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023

A Democratic primary is set for June 20 to decide the party’s nominee for the new 13th State Senate District, which includes Surry, Sussex, Prince George  and Charles City counties, Petersburg and Hopewell, and parts of Henrico and Dinwiddie counties. State Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Petersburg, is vying for the nomination against former Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg.

1. Can you briefly summarize why you decided to run for the 13th District?

My focus in the General Assembly is the environment and criminal Justice Reform.  My sole desire for continuing to run for elected office is to make the working lives of my constituents easier and better.  Towards that end I introduced and got passed in the State Senate are the following Bills:

  • Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour
  • Cap insulin payments at $50 per month
  • Expand mental health dockets in Virginia
  • Prohibited vehicles searches based merely on the odor of marijuana 
  • Abolished the death penalty
  • Banned solitary confinement in Virginia
  • Establish the Public Defender’s Office in Chesterfield
  • Legalized simple possession of marijuana
  • Allowed for automatic expungement of certain misdemeanors from criminal records
  • Ended the presumptions against bail

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For each and every one of the above bills I was either the Patron or Chief Co-Patron. 

2. Who is your political role model? Why?

As a former Government and History teacher (and wrestling coach), that question is easy.  My National Political role model was George Washington.  After leading the Colonial Army to victory over a tyrannical king, he became President and set a precedent for only serving 2-terms in office.  He always deflected awards and accolades to his underlings.  He never sought out power or influence but rather, it was given to him.

My Virginia political leader is Thomas Jefferson.  He was an author, inventor, farmer, and  politician.  He set the gold standard.  I am reminded of what President Kennedy said during a State dinner for Pulitzer Prize winners and Nobel Laureates at the White House in 1962.  He began his speech by saying, “This evening, we have seated before us, the greatest collection of talent ever assembled in the White House at one time……save for when Thomas Jefferson was dining alone!

3. What change, if any, to state law would you like to see in the wake of last year’s overturning of Roe v. Wade?

I believe in limited Government.  The decision on whether or not to have an abortion should be between a woman and her physician.  Legislators should not be telling men or women what to do with their bodies.  There should always be exceptions for rape or incest.  I would support any laws that included the above principles.  

4. Should school personnel be required to use transgender students’ preferred names, pronouns and/or not reveal their gender identity to their parents? Why or why not?

School personnel should be encouraged to use transgender students preferred names, pronouns, etc.  As a former teacher and wrestling coach, I believe that the best scholastic results are when parents, teachers and students work together, not separately, to help students navigate high school.

5. Do you agree with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order banning “divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory” from public schools? Why or why not?

Again, as a former high school Government and History teacher, I think that history classes should teach all aspects of our country’s and Commonwealth’s past – the good, the bad, the highlights and the flaws.  When I taught high school, I always shared with the students both perspectives on a topic and then let them come to their own conclusions as to what was the correct path to follow.

6. What more can Virginia do to prevent mass shootings?

In addition to teaching Government History in high school, I also taught Law School on two different continents.  I taught Constitutional Law including the Second Amendment.  Keeping handguns, AK-47’s, and AR-15’s out of the hands of criminals is imperative.  I have introduced legislation to do just that.  

7. Should the state get involved in stemming or encouraging the proliferation of solar farms in rural counties?

I have represented rural counties in Virginia since I first came into the General Assembly in 2008.  For the better part of the last 15 years, I have worked closely with the Farm Bureau to improve the lives and livelihoods of our farmers and foresters.  Any creation of solar farms in our rural counties must be done in a measured and prudent fashion.  I do not want to see our iconic local farms and timberlands – many of them run by the same family for generations  – turned into an industrial solar panel facility.

8. Should Surry County have the option of raising its local sales tax by 1% by voter referendum to fund school construction projects? Why or why not?

I have always been guided by the following principle: “Those closest to the Govern, govern best”.  Accordingly, I wince when Washington, D.C. tells Richmond, Virginia what to do and I likewise wince when Richmond, Virginia tells localities what to do.  Rather or not Surry County needs a local sales increase of 1% should be determined by Surry County residents.

9. What is one issue where you disagree with your political party’s national stance?

One issue that I disagree with my political party’s national stance is on the Elimination of Student Debt.  I know many, many high school grads who borrowed money and paid it back!  I know plenty of hardworking men and women, including journeymen, electricians, pipefitters, tradesmen long distant truck drivers, etc., who borrowed money to learn a trade and paid it back!  I don’t think that college grads should be treated any differently.  If they entered into a contract to pay money back, they should pay it back and not have (collectively) hundreds of millions of dollars in debt eliminated by a stroke of a pen.  I am in favor of eliminating some students debt if you agree to teach school for 5 years in a rural jurisdiction that is underserved.   

10. How should retail marijuana sales be implemented, or should the 2021 legalization be overturned?

Retail marijuana sales in Virginia have already been decided.  We need to look at other states to determine the best practices for retail distribution and implement same.  We do not need to reinvent the cookie.  States like Washington, Seattle, Colorado have developed the best practice methods of retail distribution of marijuana and we should try to implement the same.