Joe Morrissey announced Thursday night before a crowd of more than 200 people at the Satellite Lounge in South Richmond that he is, in fact, running for Richmond mayor.
"I've had one mantra for the last 25 years: Always fight for the people," Morrissey told the crowd. "That expression - fighting for the people - is not just a logo to me. It's something I believe down to my DNA. If you elect me your mayor, I will fight for you. I will do it every day, seven days a week, for 12 months a year, for four years."
The former state delegate and defense attorney joins a growing field of declared mayoral candidates, including City Council President Michelle Mosby, former councilman Bruce Tyler, community strategist Lillie A. Estes, activists Alan Schintzius and Rick Tatnall, and Richmond Public Schools teacher Chad Ingold.
Morrissey is a “genuine contender” in the race, says Bob Holsworth, a longtime observer of city and state politics. Morrissey’s name is recognizable across the city, a significant advantage in a crowded field of mayoral hopefuls. That name recognition is due, in part, because of his career in city politics, but more recently because of his well-documented legal troubles and personal life.
In December 2014, Morrissey was sentenced to six months in jail for a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor (He served 90 days). Originally, Morrissey was charged with four felonies for a sexual relationship investigators alleged he had with a 17-year-old secretary, Myrna Warren (formerly Myrna Pride), at his Henrico law firm. He entered an Alford plea, meaning he acknowledged prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him, while still maintaining his innocence.
While serving his jail sentence, he ran as an independent candidate and won a special election for his 74th district House seat. Through a work-release program, Morrissey served in the Virginia General Assembly by day and returned to jail at night. He moved out of the House district last spring, vacating the seat.
Warren gave birth to a son, Chase, in March 2015. After weeks of speculation about who fathered the child, Morrissey put the rumors to rest on a morning radio show. Days later, he staged a press conference to affirm his commitment to Warren and the child. He also announced he would challenge Sen. Rosalyn Dance in the 16th District Senate race. His bid was dealt a blow when he did not make it on to the Democratic primary ballot.
Last September, Morrissey cut his campaign short, citing health issues. His name still appeared on the November ballot, but he received only 26 percent of the vote. Since late last year, he has hinted repeatedly of his interest in the city’s mayoralty.
Morrissey, 58, and Warren, now 20, are to be married in June. The couple had their second child, Bella, last week.
Morrissey, who promotes himself as a fighter for the people, is known to be a tireless campaigner with a loyal base of supporters .
“All the other candidates would be wise not to underestimate his capabilities,” Holsworth says.