RICHMOND, Va. -- Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, Richmond mayoral candidate Joe Morrissey joined CBS 6 in the studio for an interview and then answered questions from voters via Facebook live.
Morrissey, who was born in Northern Virginia, is a local attorney who has held public office several times.
He attended the University of Virginia and Georgetown University Law School.
Morrissey served as the Richmond’s Commonwealth Attorney from 1989 -1993 and in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2008 to 2015.
As a lawyer for over two decades, Morrissey – in his words -- has represented many of Richmond’s “often marginalized citizens.”
“While the city has gained national and international status as a tourism, culture, sports, history, and food destination, these residents have not benefitted from this growth and increased prominence,” he said.
Despite the controversies which have mottled his political career, a poll by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy found Morrissey is supported by 28 percent of Richmond voters. That is 12 percentage points higher than his next closest competition, former Venture Richmond executive director Jack Berry.
“Everyone wants Joe Morrissey to go away — except maybe his constituents,” the Washington Post previously wrote of his popularity.
During the Facebook live interview Monday, Morrissey revised his take on the Jefferson Davis statue, only two weeks after calling for its removal.
“I don’t think I thought that through,” Morrissey said to CBS 6 Monday. “In my mind, I was generating a conversation.”
On September 26, Morrissey held a press conference saying the monument is "a political statue that glorified a failed political organization and championed a cause – slavery – that all Americans now find abhorrent."
“In hindsight, I was wrong… I was wrong,” he said. “What I think would be better is if we created a statue where you unify folks and brought them together.”
Morrissey has maintained a strong criticism of the current city administration. He has also said that as mayor, he would have a budget prepared on time; the city would not have a late Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
Concerning the issues, Morrissey places public education at the top, at least on his website. He maintains that if elected mayor he would “award education the highest budget priority; all budget proposals will be measured against the needs of education.”
Additionally, he said that he would implement the Capital Improvement Plan approved by the School Board and support Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden’s Academic Improvement Plan.
As mayor, Morrissey also advocates the private-sector creation of public Wi-Fi hot spots, wants to upgrade and refurbish the Diamond using public-private partnership funding, and attract private-sector financing to rebuild the Coliseum.
He harkens back to his legislative experience working with many regions across Virginia, and he promises to partner with City Council, the School Board, and the city’s counterparts in Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover counties, and the tri-cities areas.
Morrissey made his bid for mayor months after he pulled out of the Virginia State Senate race. He planned to run as an Independent candidate after he failed to get on the Democratic Party primary ballot for the 16th District Senate seat. Morrissey gave up his 74th House of Delegates seat in order to run for the Senate.
He completed many of his duties as a House Delegate while serving out a 90-day prison sentence after he was found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, Myrna Warren, who was then 17 and a receptionist in his law office.
Morrissey was given a work release sentence by a judge, after submitting an Alford plea and allowing him to serve his prison sentence at night and commute to the General Assembly during the day.
He is now married to Myrna and they have two children. Shortly before he announced that he was the father of the first child, he released an image that generated a lot of social media buzz. The photo showed Morrissey, Myrna, and an infant dressed in period costumes.
When asked about their initial tryst, Morrissey detailed his deep love for her, and said she has made him a better man and father.
That was not his first stint in jail; he was previously jailed for fighting famed defense attorney David Baugh and for beating a contractor.
He has been cited for contempt of court 10 times for being unprofessional, inappropriate, and dishonest, and jailed for it several times.
CBS 6 Reporter Mark Holmberg has previously said Morrissey has been “an open book” in his almost three decades of public life here in Richmond.
“For me, one of the most telltale moments in his legislative career was when he brought an AK-47-style rifle to the General Assembly and brandished it on the floor, his thumb inside the trigger guard, to make a point about the proliferation of assault-style weapons.
I asked him if he felt it was fair to say he's lived a good bit of his life with his finger on the trigger.
"It's an interesting characterization . . . analogy," Joe responded, "and it may be true. But here's what I do . . . Everything I go about doing, I try to do it 100 percent."
All candidates were invited to participate in an interview with CBS 6 and so far, candidates Levar Stoney, Lawrence Williams, Jon Baliles, Michelle Mosby and Joe Morrissey have appeared.