McClellan and Bagby have already filed to run for the race, but only Bagby has officially announced his candidacy. On Monday afternoon, Morrissey seemed to confirmed speculation that he would enter the race, announcing a “major announcement” to be made at a Tuesday press conference. At the same time, fierce Morrissey ally John Fredericks, publisher of The Virginia Star, tweeted “Breaking…!VA-04 Shakeup! In upcoming Special,centrist VA Sen Joe Morrissey (D) expected to get in the race tomorrow-11:30 am presser at Petersburg City Hall. His entry completely changes dynamics in big name crowded field. If he gets in, he wins!”
McClellan has served in the Virginia General Assembly since 2006 and ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2021, where she came in third. Bagby was first elected to the legislature in 2015, and is the chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which is non-partisan but is often a powerful Democratic ally.
Morrissey was first elected to the General Assembly in 2008, but he served as the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney before that. He has a checkered past and was sentenced in 2014 for contributing to the delinquency of a minor with a 17-year-old employee who he later married; he was pardoned in 2021. He’s also a self-declared pro-life Democrat, but he hasn’t always aligned with Republicans on pro-life votes. In February, the Richmond City Democratic Committee censured him after he allegedly threatened a Petersburg NAACP official, and in May, employees at Fredericks’ radio company sought a protective order against Morrissey after an aggressive confrontation between the senator and a producer.
Despite that, Morrissey is popular, winning his 2019 primary with 55 percent of the vote despite his opponent outspending him $448,330 to $107,723, according to The Virginia Public Access Project. After redistricting, he’s been gearing up for a primary race against former Delegate Lashrecse Aird, which may give him an advantage in the surprise race for Congress.
“I think Virginia Democrats should root him on, because then he’s the House [of Representatives] Democrats’ problem, and not theirs,” CNalysis Executive Director Chaz Nuttycombe told The Star.
“It’s going to be either him or McClellan for sure, I don’t think Bagby has much of an opening in that field,” Nuttycombe said.
Two Republicans have filed for the GOP nomination: perennial candidate Leon Benjamin, who lost to McEachin in November, and Dale Sturdifen, who previously ran in a primary against Senator Frank Ruff, according to Ballotpedia.
The state filing deadline for candidates is December 23, meaning the parties must pick their nominees in under two weeks and triggering speculation that the parties will schedule their nominations as soon as this weekend. On Monday night, the Democratic Fourth Congressional District Committee voted to hold a firehouse primary on December 20.
Richmond lawyer Paul Goldman, a former chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia, is representing Cheryl Turpin in a lawsuit. The would-be candidate for a Virginia state senate special election argues in part that allowing only five days for a nomination process violates voters’ First Amendment rights. Depending on when the parties schedule their nominations, Goldman sees a similar problem developing in VA-04.
“The public interest would be best served if we didn’t have a process that was so truncated. And I really believe it’s unconstitutional. I mean, I don’t even think it’s close, to be honest with you,” he said.
Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.