‘Unapologetically’ Anti-Abortion and Scandal-Ridden Democrat Joe Morrissey Joins the Race To Represent 4th Congressional District

FILE - Virginia state Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, speaks during an interview in his office on March 5, 2020, at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. Morrissey and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan have jumped into the crowded field of candidates Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, seeking to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin, who died in November. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

By Isabel Soisson

December 15, 2022

Ahead of Virginia’s “firehouse primary” next week, state Senator Joe Morrissey has announced that he’ll be seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed the late Rep. Don McEachin and represent the fourth congressional district.

The race already includes Democratic state Senator Jennifer McClellan, Democratic Del. Joseph Preston, and insurance business owner Tavorise Marks, though the race is likely to come down to McClellan and Morrissey. And although they’re both Democrats, Morrissey’s stance against abortion rights separates him from others in his party: he’s the only anti-abortion Democratic elected official in the state.

Morrisey has suggested he might back a GOP proposal to limit abortion after 20 weeks and even has a radio show called “The Fighting Joe Morrissey Show” on a network owned by conservative commentator John Fredericks, who has been encouraging Republicans to lie about their party affiliation to vote for Morrissey in the firehouse primary on Dec. 20.

Morrissey’s anti-abortion record isn’t the only thing that makes him stand out. He’s also survived a number of serious scandals. Before he was even first elected to his state House seat in 2007, Morrissey had a ton of legal and ethical baggage. This included a 90-day jail sentence for making public statements about witnesses in violation of federal court rules; losing his license to practice in federal court; and losing his Virginia law license for several years.

In 2014, Morrissey also pleaded guilty to “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”: Myrna Pride, a 17-year-old receptionist at his law office whom prosecutors accused him of having sex with. He and Pride later married and continue to maintain that they did not sleep together while she was underaged.

In 2016, late in Morrisey’s campaign for mayor of Richmond, yet another scandal emerged. A former law client accused the candidate of exposing himself to her and making sexual advances via text messages. And in 2018, Morrisey lost his law license again, partially because of his alleged relationship with Pride while she was still a minor.

McClellan, on the other hand, is a staunch supporter of reproductive freedom and would be the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress. She launched her bid with the support of three colleagues in the state’s congressional delegation and has since secured endorsements from a bevy of Democratic luminaries in the state, including a now-former primary opponent in this very contest.

McClellan has also been endorsed by a long list of pro-choice lawmakers, activists, and organizations including US Senator Tim Kaine, the Women of Color Coalition, and US Rep. Joyce Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

If elected, Morrissey would become the second anti-abortion Democrat in the House and could theoretically help Republicans pass a nationwide abortion ban.

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, voters can cast a ballot at any of these locations from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s worth noting that the actual special election for the seat will be held in February; Tuesday’s election is just to determine the Democratic candidate.

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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