Jailed Va. Delegate Wins Re-Election As Lawmakers Prepare To Oust Him

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A jail sentence and an eleventh-hour police raid on his law office didn’t stop Virginia Del. Joe Morrissey from winning a special election to retain his seat Tuesday.

Morrissey, running as an independent, was back in jail for the night when unofficial returns showed he won the special election with 42 percent of the vote to Democrat Kevin Sullivan’s 33 percent and Republican Matt Walton’s 24 percent, according to the Washington Post.

But if lawmakers have their way, Morrissey won’t stay a delegate for long.

The former Democrat ran his re-election campaign while on work-release from jail, where he was sentenced to serve six months in December after entering an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He pleaded guilty while maintaining his innocence in order to avoid felony charges that stemmed from a sexual relationship he allegedly had with his underage former receptionist.

All that legal drama apparently wasn’t much of a deterrent for Morrissey’s constituents, although it’s worth noting that only 6,720 ballots were cast in a district of about 53,000 registered voters, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“They’re interested in my body of work in the General Assembly,” Morrissey told the Associated Press after the election. “Nobody works harder for their constituents than I do.”

But Morrissey’s colleagues are not at all interested in having him back in the General Assembly, which begins its session Wednesday. House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R) said in a statement that there are a number of options available to lawmakers to oust Morrissey from the legislature, according to the Washington Post.

“Mr. Morrissey’s election tonight does not change the fact that his actions fall grievously short of the standards of a public servant in the House of Delegates,” Howell said, as quoted by the newspaper. “As Speaker, I have an obligation to faithfully and impartially discharge my duties as presiding officer and a responsibility to protect the honor and integrity of the House of Delegates as an institution.”

Delegates could choose to file a resolution to either censure Morrissey, which would require a simple majority of the full body, or to expel him, which would require two-thirds approval, according to the Post.

Morrissey told the AP that if his colleagues do try to kick him out of the legislature, he plans to fight back on voting rights grounds.

Regardless of what happens in the General Assembly, Morrissey’s legal troubles appear to be far from over. When police searched his law office Monday for information on allegedly falsified court documents, Morrissey decried it as an attempt to “disrupt” his re-election effort; but the search signals that the investigation into Morrissey’s alleged relationship with the teenage receptionist continues.

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