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Morrissey promises ‘wake-up call’ for Dems as Aird focuses on abortion

Senator Tim Kaine speaks while standing next to Democratic Virginia Senate candidate Lashrecse Aird.
Ben Paviour
VPM News
Democratic Virginia Senate candidate Lashrecse Aird stands beside Sen. Tim Kaine as he speaks Monday in Henrico County to campaign volunteers.

Former Del. Lashrecse Aird has the backing of top Virginia Democrats, but state Sen. Joe Morrissey says he’s got closer connections to his constituents.

State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D–Richmond) promised to deliver a “wake-up call” in Tuesday’s primary to party leaders who’ve poured time and resources into unseating him.

Some of those politicians, including U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, were on hand Monday to support his opponent, former Del. Lashrecse Aird, as she rallied to boot Morrissey from the upper chamber.

“There are going to be some races in Virginia that are going to get decided by a razor-thin margin,” Kaine told a crowd of volunteers in Henrico County. “Let's not have this be one of them.”

The primary is among the most closely watched in the state. Aird has a large fundraising advantage and is getting support from groups like Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia and Care in Action — a group supporting domestic workers — as well as top Democrats like Kaine, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, and other lawmakers. Care in Action brought in canvassers from as far away as New York and Georgia to support Aird’s campaign.

Several other members of the legislature were on hand Monday to support the former delegate, including state Sen. Lamont Bagby (D–Richmond), the chairperson of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and the caucus’ vice chairperson, Del. Cia Price (D–Newport News).

But in an interview Monday, Morrissey said he’d single-handedly knocked on nearly 10,000 doors and had a connection with his constituents that Aird can’t match.

“I'm the guy who when the 80 year-old woman calls up from Petersburg and says, the neighbor’s dog did … his business in my yard and says, ‘Can you take care of it?’ I'll take care of it,” Morrissey said. “I take care of my constituents' concerns. And they have always taken care of me at the polls.”

Aird continued to zero in on Morrissey’s support for limited abortion restrictions; the lawmaker co-sponsored unsuccessful legislation last year to limit the procedure in most cases beyond 20 weeks.

“When we talk about our reproductive rights, we have someone who's trying to take away that freedom,” Aird said on Monday.

Senator Joe Morrissey speaks while seated.
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
State Sen. Joe Morrissey says the Democratic primary for the 13th District is about more than abortion.

Morrissey said his primary opponent was trying to make the race all about abortion, though voters have often approached him about other issues, including bringing a casino to Petersburg, economic development and gun violence.

Morrissey’s wife, Myrna Morrissey (who, according to the Washington Post, prefers Myrna Warren now) has filed for divorce and alleged physical and emotional abuse — accusations he has strenuously denied.

In 2015, Morrissey entered a plea agreement for contributing to the delinquency of a minor stemming from what prosecutors said was his affair with Myrna when she was his 17 year-old secretary. He went on to win a special election from jail running as an independent, and later, a 2019 Senate primary against a better-financed opponent backed by top Democrats.

Two businesspeople with connections to the GOP have urged Republican supporters to support Morrissey in this year’s primary. Despite support from across the aisle, Morrissey said Monday he would not run against Aird as an independent in the heavily Democratic district if he loses the primary. Still, he maintained defeat was an unlikely outcome.

“It's going to be kind of an awakening call to some of these party leaders, just like it was in 2019,” Morrissey said.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.