McGraw attacks Morrisey over short-term ties to state
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On the day Republican attorney general candidate Patrick Morrisey cast his early ballot in Jefferson County, incumbent Darrell McGraw's campaign renewed its attack on Morrisey's short-term connection to West Virginia.
Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio said Monday that Morrisey, a New Jersey native, didn't become a West Virginia resident until about five years ago, and that Morrisey's wife, Denise Henry Morrisey, is registered to vote in Virginia.
"His wife will not be voting for her own husband," Puccio said. "If she doesn't even vote for him, why should we?"
Morrisey responded that recent personal attacks against his wife and family were a "low blow." He said McGraw would stop at nothing to get re-elected.
"We've been slowly climbing, and we're now even in the polls," Morrissey said Monday. "They're desperately trying to drag me through the mud a week before Election Day because they're about to lose."
McGraw's campaign issued a press release last week that questioned Morrissey's West Virginia residency, noting that his wife was registered to vote in Alexandria, Va., and his teenage stepdaughter attends school there.
"It's a very low blow for Darrell McGraw to attack my wife and stepdaughter and bring them into this campaign," Morrisey said. "It shows just how desperate he is, and how he's losing this race. To bring a family into this is not the kind of politics West Virginians deserve."
The press release also alleges Morrisey's house in Harpers Ferry is a "summer home," implying that Morrisey and his wife live elsewhere.
Morrisey said Monday that he bought the house in Jefferson County in 2006 -- two years before he got married. He said the Harpers Ferry home is his full-time residence, and he's been writing guest columns for local newspapers ever since moving to Jefferson County.
"I've been very active in the community," Morrisey said. "It's not like I've been hiding."
The McGraw campaign also has repeatedly assailed Morrisey, a lawyer, for getting admitted to the West Virginia Bar only four days before he filed to run for attorney general on the GOP ticket. Morrisey has never practiced law in West Virginia, or appeared in a West Virginia courtroom.
"My understanding is he's never tried a case in West Virginia," Puccio said.
Morrisey also is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.
"For all we know, he's never pried open a West Virginia [state] code book," said John Mitchell Jr., McGraw's campaign manager.
Morrisey, who formerly worked for a corporate law firm in Washington, D.C., said he has represented West Virginia clients in the past.
He said he started the process of securing his West Virginia law license in the spring of 2011 -- months before deciding to run for attorney general.
"It's a many, many month process," said Morrisey. "I started the process a long time ago."
Morrisey called McGraw's criticism a "sideshow" and alleged that McGraw's subordinates oversee the day-to-day operations of the attorney general's office.
"I'm a regulatory lawyer," Morrisey said. "He spends all his time spending millions of dollars of taxpayers' money, and he doesn't even run his own office."
Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said voters should elect the candidate who's most qualified to be West Virginia's attorney general, not who's lived in the state the longest.
"It's rare that West Virginians have the opportunity to vote for someone as highly qualified as Patrick Morrisey," Lucas said. "With Darrell McGraw, who endorsed Barack Obama, we have someone whose character and values don't match West Virginia's."
In press releases, the McGraw campaign has skewered Morrisey's past work with "high-powered" Washington law firms that represent the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries -- companies that the West Virginia attorney general's office is supposed to regulate.
McGraw has spent much of his career fighting against big corporations and for consumers, his supporters say.
"Patrick Morrisey's ambition is to protect the entities that have been paying his tab," Mitchell said, "the same entities Darrell McGraw is fighting against."
Puccio and Mitchell also reiterated Monday that Morrisey finished fourth out of four candidates the last time he ran for public office -- a 2000 congressional Republican primary race in New Jersey.
"He lost an election in New Jersey, and now he's attempting to [run again] in West Virginia," Puccio said. "I think the people of West Virginia deserve more than someone using us as an alternative if all else fails. We just don't want to be a playground for the rich in our elected offices."
Morrisey said McGraw's campaign wants to distract the public's attention from allegations about misconduct in the attorney general's office. Morrisey alleged that McGraw has used his taxpayer-funded office to get re-elected, passing out trinkets and spending $300,000 on radio ads this year.
"Darrell McGraw's wrongdoing and shameless self-promotion is overwhelming," Morrisey said. "It's outrageous for McGraw to spend this taxpayer money on his re-election campaign."
Reach Eric Eyre at email@example.com or 304-348-4869.