By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: April 30, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
VIRGINIA – While most don’t think of the early summer as a prime time for elections, voters this June will be heading to the polls for various primaries ahead of this November’s elections where dozens of seat of the General Assembly is up for election.
In the 16th State Senate District, voters in northeastern Dinwiddie County and northwestern Prince George County will head to the polls on June 11 along with others in a district that spans along Interstate 95 northward into the heart of Richmond to decide which candidate should represent the Democratic side of the ticket and likely win the seat as there are currently no Republican challengers vying for the district’s votes, which has remained under Democratic control for a number of years.
In this year’s Democratic primary, current State Senator Rosalyn Dance faces a challenge from Richmond-area attorney and former state-level representative Joe Morrissey.
Earlier this month, Morrissey announced his intent to run for the 16th District seat held by Dance, telling supporters in South Richmond, ” I will never give up. I will never quit. I will do everything in my being to make your lives better,” saying raising the minimum wage, improving the city’s bus routes and school infrastructure, were among his priorities, along with doing more to help the City of Petersburg as it recovers from financial turmoil that rocked the locality in recent years.
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 17-year-old girl 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.
“After speaking with all of my health care providers, I have decided to withdraw from the State Senate race and focus on rehabilitating my diaphragm,” Morrissey said at the time.
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.
After the announcement of Morrissey’s intentions to run against Dance, The Prince George Journal gave both candidates an opportunity to answer questions about their motivations for running and what they believe the pressings issues are beyond the cityscape of Richmond and Tri-Cities for more rural communities like Dinwiddie and Prince George. Only Dance responded to the newspaper’s request for answers as emails to Morrissey’s office went unanswered by our deadline, which was the same for both candidates.
For Dance, who has a background in the Southside Virginia area, having been born in Chesterfield and raised in Petersburg, a longtime employee of the now-closed Southside Virginia Training Center in Dinwiddie County, and the former mayor of Petersburg and state delegate, seeking re-election is about making a difference in a community she calls home.
“I am running to continue serving my constituents, to make a difference in our community and to improve the lives of families here,” she remarked. “I have a record of making a difference. We have expanded Medicaid, we are building a new Central State Hospital to serve those with mental health concerns, we have increased funding for public schools, we have increased teacher pay, we have increased funding for more school counselors, and we have tackled the important issue of cleaning up coal ash. But we have much more to accomplish.”
She continued, “Moreover, I have continued to advocate for an increased minimum wage, common sense gun safety measures, the Equal Rights Amendment to finally bring women into the Constitution and for job creation and job training programs.”
While much of the 16th District is comprised of more urbanized and suburban growth, portions of the district are also rural or are part of counties that feature a mix of development. When asked, Dance believes there are a number of issues that affect the more rural parts of her district and the Commonwealth as a whole.
“Within the 16th district, we have food deserts where folks have to travel long distances to find nutritious, affordable food,” she said, noting a piece of legislation introduced during the most recent General Assembly session, the Virginia Grocery Investment Program and Fund, which helps “finance grocery stores in our rural areas to eliminate food deserts and reduce food insecurity and poverty.”
“I am also a proud member of the General Assembly’s Rural Caucus, where we seek to find solutions that trouble Virginia’s rural communities,” Dance added. “Just this past session, I was awarded the Distinguished Friend of Agribusiness by the Virginia Agribusiness Council for my commitment to agribusiness in my district and across the Commonwealth.”
“Our rural areas need support and resources for job training, for public schools and for specific needs such as rural broadband,” she continued. “We need to support our rural communities so our young people will not have to leave to find good paying jobs.”
Each year, Dance and other state leaders generally gather to meet with leaders from localities within their districts to garner feedback and carry specific issues to Richmond to lobby for. Even though this year’s General Assembly session just ended, she shared some of the pressing issues in the 16th District from her perspective.
“Public education and jobs are vital to maintaining a strong community,” she remarked. “Our children need to be prepared for good paying jobs and for higher education. Companies will choose to come to an area with a well-trained and ready workforce along with good schools for their employees. Job training, retraining and advocating with companies to come here is all part of that. This is why I have been and will continue to be a strong advocate for increased funding for underserved school divisions. Additionally, I have been a strong supporter of increasing access to Pre-K.”
The Democratic primary for Virginia 16th Senate District is scheduled for June 11. The last day to register to vote or update an existing registration is Monday, May 20.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed is Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Your request must be received by your local registrar by 5 p.m.
This year’s general election, which will also feature several members of the Prince George Board of Supervisors, school board, and all constitutional officers on the ballot, is scheduled for November 5.