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Former State Lawmaker Defeats Incumbent Senator in Virginia Democrat Primary

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Former state lawmaker Lashrecse Aird on Tuesday defeated incumbent Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) in a closely-watched Democrat state primary race in Virginia in which a major campaign issue was abortion.

Morrissey, who is pro-life—the only such Democrat in the Virginia state Senate—represents District 16.

A former prosecutor turned defense attorney, Morrissey has been disbarred twice. He’s regarded as one of the most controversial figures in Virginia politics.

Political maps had been redrawn for the latest election season, which means legislative candidates are all running for the first time for the newly created districts.

Late Tuesday, Morrissey conceded to Aird in the primary race for the Virginia Senate’s 13th District while election results were still being counted.

Election results in Virginia are not finalized until they are certified by the State Board of Elections.

Aird had represented the 63rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2016 to 2022. She was the youngest woman ever elected to the chamber.

Aird won the race with the help of an unusual number of legislators and members of the state’s congressional delegation who endorsed her. She also far outspent Morrissey, who had no official campaign manager.

Her campaign was heavily focused on Morrissey’s position on abortion.

Morrissey said he was “saddened, but not surprised” that his female Democrat colleagues on the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus who had endorsed Aird had tried to frame abortion as “the only issue” in the race.

“It is not. It’s about criminal justice reform, the environment, affordable housing and economic growth in the 13th Senate District,” he said in a statement.

He also said that Aird’s position on abortion is not aligned with the district, noting that she supported a bill that would have made it legal for women to have an abortion up to a day prior to delivery, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

joe morrissey
In this Jan. 20, 2015, file photograph, Joe Morrissey watches the proceedings during the House of Delegates session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

Morrissey, a Catholic, had indicated he would keep an “open mind” on proposed legislation to further limit abortion.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Morrissey said he believes the decision to have an abortion should be between a woman and her doctor. But he also shared his view that abortion should be banned after the point at which an unborn baby can feel pain.

In Virginia, abortion is currently legal through the second trimester. After that, it is legal only if needed to save the life of the mother.

Morrissey told the AP he most likely wouldn’t support Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed 15-week abortion ban, however, because he hasn’t seen any empirical evidence to suggest that is the point where an unborn baby starts to feel pain. Morrissey also said he generally supports exceptions to any abortion restrictions in cases of rape or incest.

In 2022, Morrissey co-sponsored a 20-week abortion ban with a Republican state lawmaker. Earlier this year, Morrissey abstained from voting on a proposed legislation that would codify what Democrats call “reproductive rights” into the state constitution. Neither bill passed.

Aird, who works in higher education administration, will complete against Republican Eric Ditri in the Nov. 7 general election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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