PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — State Sen. Joe Morrissey has jumped into the race to fill the late Rep. Donald McEachin’s congressional seat.

Sen. Morrissey (D-Richmond) announced plans to run for Virginia’s 4th Congressional District seat Tuesday outside Petersburg’s City Hall, saying he feels his “successes in Virginia can be expanded to the federal level.”

“I’ve spent the better part of the last decade fighting for issues important to Virginians, like the environment, reforming our criminal justice system, investing in affordable housing, fighting for Virginia’s health care and preventing gun violence,” Morrissey said.

He joined other Virginia Democrats vying for the party’s nomination in a Feb. 21 special election in hopes of finishing out McEachin’s two-year term.

Earlier Tuesday, State Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) announced her bid for the 4th District outside the Virginia State Capitol. Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), former Democratic state delegate Joseph Preston and Tavorise Marks, a civil rights advocate and entrepreneur, announced runs Monday.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has set a special election for Feb. 21, 2023, to fill McEachin’s seat, giving each party until Dec. 23 to put forward its nominee.

The Democratic Party of Virginia’s 4th Congressional District Committee voted unanimously to hold a Dec. 20 firehouse primary — a primary run by the party — to pick the party’s nominee for the special election.

Registered voters in the 4th District — who consider themselves a Democrat — will cast ballots for the candidate of their choice during the one-day primary, which will be held at multiple locations across the 4th District.

The voting locations — which will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. — are:

  • Brunswick Conference Center – 100 Athletic Field Rd, Lawrenceville, Virginia 23868
  • Dogtown Dance Studio – 109 W 15th St, Richmond, VA 23224
  • Diversity Richmond – 1407 Sherwood Ave, Richmond, VA 23220
  • IBEW Local 666 – 1390 E Nine Mile Rd, Highland Springs VA 23075
  • Tabernacle Baptist Church – 444 Halifax St, Petersburg, VA 23803

Democrats running for the seat have to submit a $3,480 payment, 150 signatures and candidate paperwork to the 4th District committee by noon on Dec. 16, according to the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Morrissey criticized the nominating process picked by the committee, accusing party “elites” of going against previous Democratic efforts to expand voter access “to put their own person in.”

“With this decision, the Democratic Party has single-handedly disenfranchised every single Black mother who can’t afford to pay a babysitter $25 and go up and vote Tuesday night, or take an Uber and up and vote,” he said, calling for the primary to be held on more than one day.

Morrissey claimed the firehouse primary would only benefit one candidate “in northside Richmond” and the west end — Sen. McClellan’s state senate district — saying voters in those areas will have an easier time getting to the polls on Dec. 20.

“We’ll play by your rules. “Shame on you, Susan Swecker, and the Democratic elites for what you did,” he said. “We’ll play by your rules, and we’ll beat ya.” A Virginia Democratic Party spokesperson referred 8News to a statement from Alexsis Rodgers, the 4th District committee’s chairwoman, but did not comment directly on Morrissey’s claims.

“Democratic Party volunteers will run this nomination contest, and our focus is on making sure this process is run as smoothly and transparently as possible for candidates and voters alike,” Rodgers said.

If ultimately elected to Congress, Morrissey said Tuesday he would stay in the Virginia General Assembly until after the 2023 legislative session.

Republicans Leon Benjamin, who lost to McEachin in November, and Dale Sturdifen, a former Mecklenburg County School Board chairman, are running to be the GOP nominees.