WASHINGTON -He was re-elected to his seat after resigning amid charges he had sex with a minor. Now Virginia Del. Joe Morrissey is back in office and speaking about the controversy surrounding his campaign for the first time.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’ll be very candid. It was very gratifying,” Morrissey says of winning a special election to his former House seat representing Henrico County voters.
Morrissey says he hasn’t heard anything negative about his decision to run for the seat he resigned from amid charges that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl who had worked at his law office. The girl has denied that she had sex with Morrissey. She is now pregnant and won’t name the child’s father.
“Several of my Democratic colleagues came up and said, ‘I never thought it could be done, Joe. In a Democratic district like yours, that you go out that day, collect 461 signatures, get your name on the ballot and win,’” Morrissey says.
A handful of lawmakers, including House Speaker Bill Howell, have publicly expressed disgust at Morrissey’s decision to run in the special election. And top lawmakers from both parties are now studying how to remove Morrissey. The House of Delegates hasn’t expelled a member since 1876. A two-thirds vote of the 100-member chamber would be needed to oust Morrissey, who has a history of brushes with the law and was once disbarred.
“I’ve always said I can’t control what other people say. And I don’t. I only can control my own behavior,” he says.
Morrissey is currently spending his nights in jail serving his six-month sentence and his days in the statehouse. When asked if he believes he deserves to be in the general assembly, Morrissey defended his win.
“It’s not me, it’s the folks. It’s the people, the voters; they decide,” he says.
Morrissey announced in December that he would resign his seat, effective Tuesday, the same day as the special election. The veteran lawmaker handily won that election despite efforts by his opponents to highlight Morrissey’s criminal history.
Morrissey was convicted last month of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor.
His return to the Virginia Capitol comes as legislators have pledged to make ethics reforms in the wake of fromer Gov. Bob McDonnell’s corruption conviction.
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