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Sandy was ill and missed all the fun yesterday!  I was supposed to moderate the forum (not debate as stated in the media although the format was similar to a debate) for the hopefuls in the 74th District seat special election scheduled for Tuesday January 13.

We were supposed to have all three candidates there but apparently (I did hear from people who were there) Sullivan did not show but was at an event in Charles City.  I cannot blame Sullivan for being there with party bigwigs like US Senator Kaine, Congressman Scott and Senator McEachin.

But the anti-Morrissey hecklers were there; the father of the alleged victim was present (so was the young lady, too I am told) and they threatened to disrupt the event but after some tense moments the event went off as planned.  Here is the channel 6 TV coverage.

All three networks in Richmond as well as the Times-Dispatch and even the Washington Post, too!

The forum started calmly with Walton, a 29-year-old high school teacher dressed in a suit, seated at a table next to two empty chairs. Morrissey, wearing jeans, walked in 20 minutes late and immediately began touting what he said was his fight for the underdog.

The protesters and some of the audience members soon began arguing. “He’s here on work release. He took a plea deal so the evidence would not come out. He is an inmate,” said a woman who identified herself as a sister of the alleged victim.


During the forum, Morrissey said he supports raising the hourly minimum wage to $15, strengthening gun laws and imposing a statewide public defender system. He also criticized those opposing his candidacy.  (emphasis added)

Well, Morrissey is right about one thing:  We do need a statewide public defender system.  I do not like the word “imposing” but understand the former delegate was eloquent about the need for statewide public defenders throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Walton took more conservative stands:

Walton said the state’s current gun laws are sufficient. He supports raising the minimum wage but wouldn’t say by how much. He said he would review the current public defender system.

It appears that the negativity from Sullivan/Morrissey ad wars  (here’s the story with the Sullivan ad and Morrissey’s press response – promising not to go negative) might redound to the GOP candidate, Matt Walton.  Here’s from the R T-D story on the Crusade event:

On Sunday, Walton received the endorsement of Rep. Dave Brat, R-7th, who said in a statement that Walton would help improve the economy, develop new jobs and “ensure our kids get a better education.”

Here’s another Walton story (from the Post):

The moderator did not ask about Morrissey’s criminal conviction, his past tangles with the law or ethics reform — and Walton did not raise the issue.

“I’m focusing solely on talking about education and jobs and talking about issues that matter to the folks of the 74th District,” Walton said afterward.

More R T-D highlights from the Crusade article:

Morrissey, a Democrat running as an independent, and Republican candidate Matt Walton, a Henrico teacher, generally agreed on issues such as decriminalizing the use of medical marijuana for people with certain illnesses and raising the monetary threshold for felony convictions involving grand larceny.

Morrissey, though, spoke of his posture as a legislator whose career has sought to focus on the needs of everyday people, while Walton pushed spending restraints, efficiency in government and reduced taxes for the middle class.

The debate, which Morrissey described as more of a “conversation,” attracted about 25 people, none of whom, Morrissey quipped, seemed to be football fans, and few of whom live in the district that is the subject of the special election . The Masonic Lodge where the debate occurred is in South Richmond, far from the boundaries of the 74th District.

The reporter missed the point:  The Richmond Crusade for Voters is a venerable and prominent Richmond political organization.  It is important for them to have an event.


“It was disappointing to me that the ethics question never came up,” area resident Jerry Blow said of the debate between Walton and Morrissey, who told reporters that the protesters represent a splintered faction of a broken family that wrongly believes he took advantage of the then-17-year-old office worker.

Since I helped write the questions, I’ll tell you why the ethics question did not come up.  I felt that the hopefuls would have plenty of time at beginning and the end to discuss whatever they wanted to but we focused on bills submitted and issues before the next session of the General Assembly.  The winner will probably not have time to submit any bills this session so it will be important to see what issues and bills are important to vote on.

This forum in my view was huge for the Crusade for Voters.  They are on the march again – we need them to remind people the right to vote is sacred and ought to be fought for.  The Crusade tried to stop a Jim-Crow era voter law in the 50s and although they lost the battle, the war was won.  I am thrilled and honored to have been asked to be a member and helpful to the Crusade.

So what will happen tomorrow?  First, very few people will vote so it will be the most passionate and determined to vote.  Maybe only two or three thousand.  Morrissey has passionate followers.  There are passionate voices against the former delegate.  But the anti-Morrissey vote will be split.  I had a source advise me that at a prior forum, some Democrat activists are angry about the “Rhodesia-style” (yes the flag is still up until tomorrow evening) firehouse primary.  They lit into Sullivan who tried to say it’s not my fault.  So what will they do?  Vote for Morrissey as a protest?  Or vote for Walton?  Certainly every Republican voter and activist in the 74th should vote Walton.  If you asked me today, I’d agree with the source that said:  Morrissey is going to win Tuesday.  Let’s prove him wrong.  Vote Walton.



About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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