Virginia Democrat Who Was Charged With Sex With a Minor Wins Primary

Defeats incumbent who touted support from Gov. Ralph Northam

Joe Morrissey / Facebook

Former state legislator Joe Morrissey, who in 2014 was charged with sex with a minor, won Tuesday night’s Democratic primary for Virginia’s 16th Senate District, defeating an incumbent senator who had the support of Gov. Ralph Northam (D.).  

Morrissey, who served in the House of Delegates earlier in the decade, defeated Democratic state senator Rosalyn Dance by over ten points. Dance had touted an endorsement from the scandal-plagued Northam and campaigned with the governor in the final weekend of the campaign.

"The Governor strongly supports Senator Dance for reelection," a campaign adviser for Northam told the Washington Post.

In 2015, Morrissey pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for contributing to the delinquency of a minor after he, who was in his fifties at the time, was accused of having sexual relations with a 17-year-old receptionist at his law office when Virginia's age of consent is 18. He would later marry the receptionist and they have two children.

During the court proceedings, Morrissey also faced reprimands from bar prosecutor for allegations his "defense amounted to a ‘fraud perpetrated on the court.’" He would eventually have his law license revoked over the allegations, marking the second time Morrissey had been disbarred.  

Despite the scandal and ensuing legal battle, Morrissey continued to serve in the legislature during a six-month jail term, and eventually he ran for Richmond mayor in 2016, coming in third.

He also created a stir when he and his wife and former receptionist Myrna took photographs in "old-timey" antebellum outfits, despite the fact that black women like Myrna were enslaved in Virginia before the Civil War.

Launching his campaign earlier this year, Morrissey vowed to advocate for a variety of progressive issues, if voters sent him back to the state legislature, including a higher minimum wage and marijuana decriminalization. He also focused his campaign on tackling local issues such as fighting potholes and lowering electric bills.

Morrissey will almost certainly win, since the seat has consistently been won by Democrats in previous general elections.