Who’s In Charge Here: No More Joe Morrissey? Say it ain’t so

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Looking back on an absolutely bonkers political year, both here in Virginia and nationally, I’m left with one strange thought at the end of it all: I’m going to miss Joe Morrissey.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Like most Richmonders, I’m cautiously optimistic about our new young mayor, Levar Stoney. (He’s already been everywhere in the city, in a nice contrast to his famously closed-off predecessor.)

And I certainly think we dodged a major bullet when we selected someone besides Morrissey as our mayor. There’s nothing about his checkered past that suggests he would be the right one to lead the city at this important juncture in its history.

But until the thought of a Mayor Morrissey became a real possibility, following Morrissey’s political career as a spectator was – and there’s no other way to put this – FUN

Morrissey was unpredictable. New revelations seemed to follow him daily. He long ago entered what sports personality Bill Simmons calls “The Tyson Zone” – a realm of celebrity where you would believe just about anything that was written about him. “Morrissey found to have secret life as Florida town councilman”? I’d believe it. “Former Virginia Delegate caught in lizard-fighting scandal”? Sure. “Morrissey rescues small child from well”? Why not?

I’ve been writing and commenting on Joe’s career for at least two years now, and his machinations never got old. Characters like JoMo enliven politics, and help keep politics watchers like me from getting bored.

Of course, I don’t want to be too flippant here. Politics have real-life consequences. It was easy to find the fun in Morrissey’s career when he was tilting at windmills as a Democrat in the state legislature, with not much at stake. As mayor, Morrissey’s penchant for grandstanding and burned bridges could have been disastrous for a city that needs open channels with the state legislature and Governor’s office, as well as the support of various city interests.

Still, even though his defeat was a good thing, Morrissey contributed to the conversation (he’s always talking). As I noted back in September, nobody pushed the “two Richmonds” story better than he did in the early months of the campaign. Morrissey best reminded us that while RVA celebrates new breweries and art festivals, a good chunk of the city – mostly poor and black – is suffering from concentrated poverty. Morrissey was probably not the best person to tell us this news. Still, in the end over 20 percent of the city’s voters chose him for mayor. We should be paying attention to those voices and that message, even if we no longer pay attention to the messenger.

So what’s next for Morrissey? He suggested immediately after the election that he might focus his attention back on his law firm. But he also told Beau Cribbs before the vote that even if he won, he might eventually end up in Charleston, SC, where his “wife would love to live.” (As a friend said to me after hearing that: “Sorry, Charleston.”) God knows he owes that woman for what he put her through this fall.

Wherever he ends up, it looks like we won’t have Joe Morrissey to kick around anymore. I hope you can forgive a politico like me for feeling a little wistful for the days when a new Morrissey headline was just around the corner.

And who knows? Maybe there could be another comeback for Fightin’ Joe in the future. One thing we should have learned from his long, storied career: never count out Joe Morrissey.

…Maybe I should be careful what I wish for.

Richard Meagher teaches politics at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. Follow him on Twitter at @rjmarr. Follow his blog here.

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