Joe Morrissey Is Now the Biggest Player in Richmond
One clear result from Tuesday’s elections: The biggest player in Virginia politics is state Sen.-elect Joe Morrissey.
With Democrats set to have a 21-19 majority in the next General Assembly session, the man the party tried to keep out of office, or at least only marginally inside the tent, is now the kingmaker.
That’s right: A lawyer who has been disbarred twice, went to jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor (a woman he has since married) and who cut an ad for and endorsed a Republican for commonwealth’s attorney in Henrico County over a two-term incumbent Democrat is the guy who can sustain or dash Democratic hopes.
Give Morrissey credit: He’s one of the most astute political operators and indefatigable campaigners in Virginia. As I wrote after his June primary victory over incumbent Democrat Rosalyn Dance, Morrissey could shake up both the Senate and his fellow Democrats in some very positive ways.
And there’s at least one Democrat who will be very happy to see Morrissey in the chamber: Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Morrissey has been a vocal Fairfax supporter, believing the scandal-plagued lieutenant governor is a victim of a “smear campaign” who will eventually be “vindicated” of all charges that he sexually assaulted two women.
Why does the Morrissey-Fairfax bromance matter?
If Democrats are at all serious about running a clean, ethical show in Richmond, then they can no longer dodge holding hearings into the sexual assault allegations against Fairfax.
That’s doubly true because Fairfax has aggressively pushed the issue in a $400 million civil suit against CBS. If Fairfax is eager to bring this into the public arena and settle political scores along the way if he can, then the House of Delegates should, at minimum, begin laying the groundwork for hearings.
Not doing so would mean Democrats are only interested in strong ethics when there’s a political advantage in doing so. And we’re not that cynical yet, are we?
Maybe not. But would-be House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) may come to regret not having accepted the offer of Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) to hold hearings into the allegations earlier this year.
At least with the committee chairman’s gavel in Bell’s hands, Filler-Corn could have pinned any fallout on the GOP. With the GOP now little more than a smoking ruin, Fairfax is her problem. And he shows no signs of making a resolution easy.
Others may wonder what could have been done to minimize if not entirely avoid having to deal with Morrissey in the next session.