Democrat-Turned-Independent Wins Election from Jail Amid Sex Scandal
A jailed Virginia lawmaker who resigned amid a sex scandal with his 17-year-old secretary has won his seat back in a special election.
Joseph Morrissey, 57, was serving as a Democrat when he was accused of having sex with the teen employee. He resigned and is serving six months in jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Still, Morrissey ran as an independent in Tuesday’s special election to regain his seat.
A nude photo of Morrissey’s secretary was found on his phone. Both Morrissey and the young woman, Myrna Pride, deny that they had sex. Pride is now pregnant and will not reveal the identity of her child’s father, according to the Associated Press.
Lawmakers are researching how to permanently expel Morrissey from his seat.
Read more from the Associated Press:
In unofficial returns, Morrissey defeated Democrat Kevin J. Sullivan and Republican Matt D. Walton by a comfortable margin. Morrissey won 42 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for Sullivan and 24 percent for Walton.
Morrissey's victory was not unprecedented: Through four previous elections, most voters overlooked or even embraced the lawmaker's flamboyant history of fistfights, contempt-of-court citations and disbarment. The 57-year-old bachelor, who fathered three children out of wedlock with three different women, repeatedly won at least 70 percent of the vote as a Democrat.
Morrissey said in a telephone interview that the results show people aren't interested in the drama that landed him in jail.
"They're interested in my body of work in the General Assembly," Morrissey said. "Nobody works harder for their constituents than I do."
He also said Sullivan's ads focusing on his latest scrape with the law backfired.
"People hate negative campaigns," Morrissey said.
The lawmaker has made a career of never backing down. He hung boxing gloves in his office and promised "Joe will fight for you" in campaign ads on city buses. At one point, he waved an assault rifle inside the House chamber while arguing for gun control.