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When Is the Time to Put People Before Party? More on Joe Morrissey

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by Cindy

I’ve been a Democrat since I first understood politics. My entire family, back multiple generations are all Democrats. The Party disappoints me occasionally, Democratic voters disappoint me occasionally, but at the end of the day, I believe in the message and ideas of this party.

I didn’t actually join a local committee though until a couple years ago–it just had never really occurred to me to join before. So here I am, a member of my local Democratic committee, whose goal is to elect Democrats.

And then Joe Morrissey wins his primary against Rosalyn Dance, and becomes the Democratic nominee for Senate District 16.

And we’re faced with that question: how bad does the Democratic candidate have to be before you wouldn’t support him/her? In the age of Republican capitulation to all things Trump, it’s a question we ask ourselves a lot, mostly rhetorically. But this isn’t rhetorical, because a former legislative aide to Morrissey, Waylin Ross, filed to run as an Independent just before the deadline. It’s easy to imagine his motivations. From what I can see, this doesn’t look like a Republican running in a blue district as an Independent to fake out the voters–this appears to be someone who believes most of the same things I believe, who knew what was about to happen, and stepped up to offer the voters of his community (in particular Petersburg, where he has strong roots and local involvement) a Plan B.

There are valid reasons to support such a candidate. But there’s also a bit of a moral dilemma, at least for me. I don’t live in this district, the Democratic voters in this district surely knew all about Morrissey’s numerous crimes and indiscretions and unethical behavior, and yet they voted for him anyway. Should I be telling them they’re wrong and should have voted otherwise? And what precedent does that set for future elections? And as always, there’s a trade-off because the time, energy and money expended on this race comes at the cost of working to flip other Senate seats and House seats. (And if Morrissey ultimately ends up winning, we need to pick up extra seats in the Senate to cover his unreliable, flip-flopping voting.)

Finally, as a member of a Democratic committee, I actually cannot support the other candidate while on the committee. Because the DPVA party plan explicitly states:

No Democratic committee member or officer of any Democratic committee shall publicly support, endorse, or assist any candidate opposed to a Democratic nominee. If a Democratic committee member is accused of undertaking such public activity, the appropriate Democratic committee shall vote on whether the member has undertaken such public activity. The member’s removal from the committee shall be automatic if the committee finds that the member has engaged in such public activity. Such action shall not be taken without at least ten (10) days written notice to the accused member and an opportunity for him or her to refute such charges.

Now, most Democrats are not, in fact, members of their local committee. So they are free to support whomever they want. And there are times when even members of a Democratic committee make a “people before party” decision, resign from the committee, and campaign against a Democrat. This might be one of those times, but I haven’t decided yet.