Joe Morrissey as Post-Racial Candidate

Joe Morrissey at press conference

Joe Morrissey, with his wife Myrna in the background, during a recent press conference. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

One of the benefits of living in the Richmond region is having front row seats on the never-ending saga that is Joe Morrissey — Richmond’s very own answer to Anthony Weiner. We Richmonders can avail ourselves of near-daily newspaper and TV exposes while the rest of the state must settle for truncated Associated Press copy.

As the poll-leading candidate in the race for Richmond mayor, Morrissey landed in hot water again last week when a former client, Kanika Morris, accused him of texting her messages of a sexually explicit nature and exposing himself to her in his office. When she spurned his advances, she charged, other attorneys in his law firm pressured her into a plea deal.

No, you can’t make this stuff up.

But, as it turns out, it appears that Ms. Morris very likely did. At least she made up part of the story. Morrissey produced statements from a fellow attorney stating that she was in the room at the same time as Morrissey and Ms. Morris, and that Morrissey most emphatically did not expose himself. Furthermore, Morrissey’s camp has cited information that, in the words of his attorney, “clearly shows that Ms. Morris lied about being coerced by some kind of financial, legal and sexual pressure.”

Indeed, the big news in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch is a statement from Ms. Morris’s jail mate declaring that Ms. Morris told her that she would “do whatever it takes” to get home so her baby would not be born in jail.

What Morrissey conspicuously has not contested is that he texted messages of a sexual nature to Ms. Morris. As summarized by the T-D:

Morrissey has not denied that he sent explicit text messages to Morris while his law firm was representing her this year and while he was engaged to his now wife, who was then pregnant with their second child. In one of the messages provided by Morris to the Times-Dispatch, he instructed the woman about how he wanted her to groom her pubic hair prior to their meeting.

While texting Wieneresque messages is grotesque to middle-class sensibilities, it is not illegal. Nor in the minds of Morrissey supporters is it necessarily even disqualifying.

Morrissey, who is white, has a strong base of support in Richmond’s African-American community. He has spent much of his legal career representing the poor, many of whom find themselves in and out of the courts, and he has positioned himself as their political champion. Further, after spending a stint in jail for having sex with his 17-year-old office receptionist, an African-American, he married her.

Insofar as his chaotic personal life resembles that of many of his poor constituents, many African-Americans in Richmond apparently identify with him. While his escapades might disqualify him in the minds of middle-class voters, they reinforce his appeal to the downtrodden and demoralized. In that sense, one might truly say that Joe Morrissey is Richmond’s first true post-racial candidate.

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