Joe Morrissey, a former Virginia delegate who was jailed after a sex scandal involving his teenage secretary, toppled a Democratic incumbent in Tuesday’s primary election for state Senate.
Morrissey, 61, defeated state Sen. Rosalyn Dance in the primary, earning him the moniker “the comeback kid” in The Washington Post. He’d already created the nickname “Fightin’ Joe” for himself.
Back in 2014, Morrissey was pressured into resigning from the state House of Delegates after he accepted an Alford plea to delinquency of a minor for allegedly having sex with Myrna Warren, who was 17 at the time, WRIC reported. An Alford plea is a guilty plea with an assertion of innocence.
He didn’t admit guilt, but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence for a conviction. He accepted a lesser misdemeanor conviction and wasn’t required to register as a sex offender.
He later married Myrna, and the now couple poses with their three children in campaign photos.
Morrissey and his colleagues have characterized his repeated controversies as challenges he’s had to surmount. The “Fightin’ Joe” nickname comes largely from a fistfight he had with a lawyer in 1991, according to the Post. He lost his law license in 2003 for unethical conduct. And, in 2016, his campaign for Richmond mayor failed after a female legal client accused him of making unwanted sexual advances.
Morrissey’s campaign for Tuesday’s primary succeeded because he portrayed himself as anti-establishment, said retired Virginia Commonwealth University professor Robert Holsworth.
“He ran as someone who is completely anti-establishment, and he portrayed the incumbent as a creature of the establishment,” Holsworth told the Post. “He was also successful at redefining himself as someone who can get up off the floor after a series of defeats.”
No Republicans ran in the GOP primary for the Senate seat, which means Morrissey likely will win the November general election, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.