Alumni Profiles

Patrick Morrisey Fights For Coal Country

Patrick Morrisey
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

While a student at Rutgers, Patrick Morrisey worked as a professional tennis umpire, learning to absorb players’ anger over adverse calls. His courtside experience comes in handy in his current line of work as West Virginia’s attorney general. “Getting yelled at when you’re chair umpire in a match or you’re on a line—that’s good preparation for politics,” says Morrisey RC’89, NLAW’92.

As a conservative Republican growing up in blue New Jersey, Morrisey grew to accept—even appreciate—disagreement. “Sometimes, being a person with a minority perspective isn’t a bad thing, because you have to defend your position,” he says. “You learn to listen more and to think carefully.”

Morrisey’s political views are more mainstream in deep-red West Virginia, where he moved in 2006, midway through a Washington, D.C., career as a congressional committee staffer and a health care lawyer and lobbyist. In 2012, he was elected as the state’s first Republican attorney general since 1933.

He has sued the federal government over the Affordable Care Act and the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s climate change strategy, which Morrisey argued would devastate West Virginia’s coal industry. In March, he filed an unusual civil suit against the state’s Roman Catholic diocese, accusing church leaders of violating a consumer protection law by knowingly employing priests who were pedophiles.

Morrisey unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin in last year’s U.S. Senate race. He had campaigned as a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump, but lost to Manchin by about 19,400 votes, out of more than 580,000 cast. His term as attorney general ends in January 2021, and he is reluctant to say if he plans another run for office.

“I spend every day of my life fighting for the people of West Virginia,” he says. “These are hardy, terrific, conservative people who cherish individual freedom and want to get the government off their back.”

Story originally appeared in Rutgers Magazine