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.
Here’s one possibility: Had Democrats won even one additional Senate contest, Morrissey would have been demoted to occasional political annoyance.
Maybe it would have been the expensive, divisive and ultimately very close race in the 12th District between incumbent Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant and Democratic challenger Debra Rodman.
The 12th has been trending Democratic in recent elections, and Rodman was riding that trend — right up to the point where she called Dunnavant a “quack.”
That was bad enough — a gaffe, for sure, but not necessarily fatal. But Rodman later elaborated, saying that her vote for Medicaid expansion had “delivered more people health care” than Dunnavant, who opposed expansion, did during “her whole tenure as a politician.”
That “quack” remark ended up being an enormous political gift to Dunnavant’s campaign.
And it was one for Morrissey, too. His takeaway, though, is much bigger than Dunnavant’s.
Morrissey gets outsized influence over his caucus, the Senate and perhaps much more.
And Dunnavant? She gets to spend four years in the minority with the rest of the GOP.