Embattled Richmond Democratic Del. Joe Morrissey finally heeded calls from fellow lawmakers to resign after entering an Alford plea on charges that he engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with an underage staffer, formally stepping down on Thursday.
In a twist, Morrissey then said he will enter the special election to fill the 74th House District seat that has been set for Jan. 13.
“Mr. Morrissey’s decision to run in this election is deceitful, selfish and disrespectful to this institution and the people he supposedly desires to serve,” House Speaker Bill Howell said in a statement on Thursday in which he announced the special election date.
“This is a despicable, arrogant political stunt that should disgust each and every citizen of Virginia. The people of the 74th District deserve better than this and the obligation now rests with them to retire Mr. Morrissey permanently,” Howell said.
Word about Morrissey’s intent to run in the special election didn’t seem to reach his Democratic legislative colleagues. Democratic leaders issued statements about Morrissey that focused on his decision to resign that did not reference his plans to run in the special election.
“Having served in the House of Delegates, I know there is a high moral standard which we all expect from our representatives. Delegate Morrissey made the right decision to step down. Virginia Democrats remain committed to supporting the best representation for the 74th District,” Democratic Party of Virginia chair Dwight Jones said in a statement.
“I am glad that Delegate Morrissey has made the right decision in stepping down,” said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “We can now turn back to the work of the 2015 legislative session, including reforms to our ethics laws, addressing the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, and expanding economic opportunity to all Virginians.”
“We made it clear with our statement last Saturday that Delegate Morrissey should resign, so that the citizens of the 74th House District could elect a representative free from significant personal distractions,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Scott Surovell. “Delegate Morrissey made the right choice for his constituents, the Caucus, and the Commonwealth.”