BY OLYMPIA MEOLA
It’s become one of the most buzzed-about topics in Richmond political circles.
Will Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, give up his House of Delegates seat and challenge State Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, D-Richmond, in a primary?
Will the fiery, ambitious lawyer-turned-lawmaker take on the civil rights lion who has held the seat since 1992?
“I haven’t made that decision yet,” a coy Morrissey told reporters Wednesday.
“I think at the end of the day I’m going to surprise a lot of people with my decision. It’s not based on can I win. I’ve made that decision. I know the answer to that, which I’ll keep to myself, through canvassing and through polling.”
Later that afternoon, Morrissey released polling in a glowing memo from Myers Research and Strategic Services titled “Morrissey Defies Expectations to Forge Compeititve Primary Contest in New 16th State Senate District.”
The memo says Morrissey has reached a “stratum” of personal popularity with primary voters “far beyond what we would expect for a politician in his position.”
“Because Morrissey so thoroughly defies the expectations of a candidate running in a completely new district, he is able to make a prospective contest with long-term incumbent Senator Henry Marsh competitive,” it reads.
“Despite Marsh’s decades in office and therefore predictably high name ID (82 percent), his re-elect fails to break the majority threshold as just 46 percent of voters say that he deserves to be re-elected; dangerous territory indeed for any long-term incumbent.”
It’s not surprising that Morrissey’s name resonates outside of his House of Delegates district given his history in the area. He’s been a larger-than-life political figure in the city and eastern Henrico County since his days as commonwealth’s attorney in Richmond.
He was recently in the news because The Virginia State Bar disciplinary panel last month unanimously recommended that his law license not be reinstated.
Morrissey is currently serving his second term in the House and has taken on a leadership position with the House Democratic caucus. Despite that, speculation has swirled for months that Morrissey is eyeing Marsh’s state Senate seat as a potential next step — one that involves sensitive inter-party political calculations.
Before joining the Senate, Marsh served on the Richmond City Council and as city mayor. With the Senate’s Democrat-majority, he has risen to chair the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and sits on the powerful Finance Committee.
In his announcement for re-election this week, Marsh reminded voters that a Democratic primary will be held Aug. 23.
All 140 House and Senate seats — in newly drawn districts — are up this November.
Morrissey told reporters on Wednesday that “I think it will surprise people when I make the decision of what’s going to be best for the House that I’m currently serving in. I’ve got a close working relationship with our [House] Minority Leader Ward Armstrong and I ‘m also not desirous of creating any divisiveness in our party at a time that we are trying to grow.”
He promised to announce his intentions once he’s had time to reflect “and do what I think is correct for folks that I represent, folks that I may represent in the future.”