By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 22, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
16th Senate District results highlight low-turnout primaries
VIRGINIA – While not usually the venue for upsets, last week’s Republican and Democratic primaries across the Commonwealth saw a significant shakeup as former lawmaker and attorney Joe Morrissey defeated longtime state representative Rosalyn Dance in their primary, making headlines across the Commonwealth.
During last Tuesday’s 16th Senate District primary, Morrissey outperformed Dance in route to earning nearly 56 percent of the vote and winning the Democratic primary. While less than 16,000 ballots were cast in an election that is traditionally a low-turnout affair, the power of Morrissey’s campaigning efforts in the Petersburg seemed to pay dividends.
Of the six communities who are either partially or completely within the 16th Sentate District, both Dance and Morrissey earned the most votes in three of them but, many political analysts see Morrissey’s performance in the City of Petersburg as the catalyst that propelled him to a win last Tuesday.
According to results from the Virginia Department of Elections, Morrissey earned nearly 72 percent of the vote in the city on his way to victory over Dance as residents shifted their support from the city’s former mayor in the 1990s. Morrissey also found support in the city of Hopewell as he garnered just over 57 percent of the 1,200 votes tallied.
Over the course of the spring after Morrissey announced his plans to run for the State Senate, he focused his efforts on Petersburg, a key location for Dance given her past political experience in the Tri-Cities, honing in on addressing distressed properties that have become an eyesore along various thoroughfares in the city, such as the former Ramada Inn multi-story hotel right off Interstate 95.
“The gateway to Petersburg off of Exit 52 is a nine-story, graffiti laden, broken window, disgraceful hotel,” Morrissey said in April. “It looks like a ‘War Zone’ and that is what people see when they enter Petersburg for the first time,” adding, “When elected to the state senate, I will make the eradication of blighted homes and run-down hotels a top priority.” That former hotel served as one of the pillars of Morrissey’s campaign as he erected billboards featuring images of it and other blighted buildings in and around the Tri-Cities.
Speaking at a watch party in Petersburg, Morrissey detailed his efforts that earned him a primary victory to local media.
“I campaigned 139 out of 141 days,” he said to WTVR-TV 6 last week. “I was down here in Petersburg all the time. I was knocking on the doors. Reporters from out of state were following me. They saw what was going on. They saw cars stopping on the side of the road, people jumping out taking selfies saying ‘Joe we need you,’ and I was seeing that every night.”
Morrissey has served previously as a state delegate, representing the 74th House District from January of 2008 until March of 2015, during which time he resigned after a conviction relating to his relationship with a teenager before winning a special election in January of 2015 to regain his seat, a seat he would resign from again in March of that year ahead of a planned state senate run against democrat Dance. He would run as an independent candidate before ending his campaign later that year in September, citing health concerns.
Prior to this year’s Senate primary, Morrissey also ran for mayor of Richmond but was unsuccessful in his bid, losing to Lavar Stoney while earning nearly a quarter of the vote in 2016’s election.
Thursday, following her defeat in the primary, Dance offered congratulations to Morrissey and whoever is victorious come time for the November General Election, while also thanking her constituents for allowing her to serve them in various capacities over nearly 30 years.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the voters of the City of Petersburg, the 63rd House District and the 16th Senate District for all of the support you have given me over the last 26 years as your Mayor, Delegate and Senator,” she said. “Thank you also to the countless volunteers who gave their time to knock on doors, made phone calls, gave rides to the polls, and helped me engage as many people as possible in the political process. I look forward to thanking as many of you as possible over the next 6 months as I complete my term as State Senator on December 31, 2019.”
Dance didn’t reveal what the future holds for her, but she said she is excited for whatever it brings.
“I will leave this position with many fond memories of what we were able to accomplish together. I am excited to see where this next chapter in God’s master plan will lead me. Again, thanks to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia who have allowed me to serve as an Elected Official for the last 26 years,” she closed.
While the race between Dance and Morrissey made headlines, other primaries in the House of Delegates and State Senate saw new faces and challenges find success at the polls as, according to Dinwiddie County Registrar Linda Brandon, turnout was low with approximately nine percent of registered voters in the county visiting the polls last week.
In the 15th State Senate District Republican primary, longtime state representative Frank Ruff earned a commanding victory over challenger Dale Sturdifen, receiving nearly 80 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary. The 15th Senate District makes up much Prince George County, including Carson, Disputanta, Newville and Burrowsville, along with the vast majority of Dinwiddie County, down to the Virginia-North Carolina border, including Keysville, Kenbridge, Chase City, among others.
Ruff has served as the district’s representative since 2000, according to election records.
No primaries were held in the 63rd House District for either party, with current Delegate Lashrecse D. Aird facing no challengers in the coming election. Aird has served has the district’s representative since 2016 after winning a 2015 primary before going unchallenged in that year’s election.
Now, with the deadline now past, those interested in running for office will have to have a write-in campaign, where they encourage voters to write their name into the “write-in” space on the ballot on election day.