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Morrissey Wins Primary, Fairfax Calls for Investigations, and Medicaid Expansion Fallout | Political Analysis for Friday, June 14, 2019


Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins Phil Liles for this week's political analysis. Topics include Joe Morrissey's win of his Democratic primary on Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax's ongoing troubles, and how Medicaid expansion affected the primaries.

PL: This is 88.9 WCVE News. Good morning, I'm Phil Liles in for News Director Craig Carper for this week's commentary with Richmond Times-Dispatch political reporter Jeff Schapiro. Good morning, Jeff.

JS: Hi there, Phil.

PL: I'm looking forward to doing this today. This is so much fun, but you know, this week has been very busy and especially with the primaries on Tuesday and yes, he's back from the dead. He is the walking dead. Joe Morrissey is on track to be a state senator, and he ousted the incumbent Rosalyn Dance.

JS: In a Democratic primary, and that was the big surprise of the evening. And for all of Morrissey’s negatives - twice jailed, acknowledging sex with a teenager who is now his wife, that he's been stripped of his law license. You know, there were, there were signs early on that Dance was in trouble. Polling, for example, showed her under 50%. It's usually a sign of trouble for an incumbent. This district runs from Richmond to Petersburg, but particularly in Petersburg Dance had a lot of troubles. The results show that, blown away in her hometown. There's been an enormous amount of resentment in Petersburg over Dance that has accumulated over the years. And that hostility is magnified by the nature of this majority black district - high levels of poverty, pockets of crime, troubled schools, problems that persist. And if you are Fightin’ Joe Morrissey and you appeal to the politics of grievance, much the way Donald Trump does, this is a natural. Joe Morrissey, of course, the living, breathing definition of scandal, but to some degree that compliments the, the themes that one associates with this troubled personality, the rapscallion way in which he has practiced law and politics will clearly be his, his M.O. in the Senate. And that raises the possibility, that is if the Senate, now 21 Republicans and 19 Democrats, is 20 - 20, will Morrissey attempt a bit of gamesmanship, maybe organizing, aligning with the Republicans in return for favorable rules, favorable committee assignments, favorable consideration of his legislation. And here's betting that if there's any sort of a deal, it's one that includes putting Morrissey on the Courts Committee. Of course it has jurisdiction over the criminal law. That was his bread and butter when he was a practicing lawyer. But it also oversees the legal profession and the courts, which in Morrissey's view have indefensibly punished him. And that Joe's attitude has always been over the years that if you punch him, he's gonna punch back even harder.

PL: Well, you know, one of the things too that was stated when they congratulated everybody that had won in the Democratic Party on Tuesday, Joe was left out.

JS: Not exactly welcome to the party, but you know, he's not the only Democrat who's not exactly welcome to the party. The lieutenant governor, a Democrat, who would cast the tie breaking vote in the 2020 Senate, Justin Fairfax, also a politician who allegedly has trouble with a women, has through his lawyer written prosecutors in Massachusetts and North Carolina asking them to proceed with these criminal investigations, these suggested criminal investigations that would look into allegations that he sexually assaulted, if not outright raped, women. Now one of the Fairfax accusers in North Carolina is purportedly, this is Fairfax’s claim, part of a big setup to humiliate and embarrass the lieutenant governor. Regardless of motive, the problem with all of this is that it further trivializes Justin Fairfax, making even more trouble for him and perhaps less likely that he can clear his name and be a player in the ‘21 gubernatorial contest.

PL: Well, getting down to about two minutes. You know, two Republican primaries, one for the House, the other for the Senate. One incumbent is punished for supporting Medicaid expansion and the other is rewarded. Can you elaborate on that?

JS: Certainly, and of course expanding Obamacare or bringing Obamacare, fully extending Obamacare into Virginia has been driving the state’s politics for about a half-a-dozen years. You know, all Republicans are against it. Nearly all, all Democrats are for it. Now, up in the Fredericksburg area, Bob Thomas, freshmen delegate, handpicked successor for the former speaker Bill Howell, an arch opponent of Medicaid expansion was defeated for renomination by Paul Milde. This was a challenge from the right. The argument was Thomas had gone back on his word, no longer opposing Medicaid expansion and supporting it, and boom, he was gone. Up in the Valley of Virginia, Emmett Hanger, a Republican state senator handily dispatched a challenge from the right. They focused almost entirely on his support of Medicaid expansion. That big win by Emmett Hanger is a reminder that in some parts of Virginia it's still possible to run legislative races the old-fashioned way, running as a friend and neighbor as opposed to a red-eyed, full-throated partisan.

PL: Now in about 30 seconds, I know it doesn't give you much time, but due to the Virginia Beach mass shooting, we have an approaching special legislative session on gun control, as well as taxes.

JS: The governor this week announced a series of town hall style meetings to talk about the gun problem in Virginia. This is all about elevating sensitivities ahead of that July 9th special session. There are going to be other bits of business on the, on the table. One that apparently won't be is the possibility of sweetening some of that tax relief that the Republicans have been talking about. Big revenue collection had some Republicans suggesting the idea Virginia should be a bit more generous. The Republican leadership is saying, “Not so fast.”

PL: Thank you so much, Jeff. This is 88.9 WCVE News.

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