RICHMOND – Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.) Announced on Monday that he is struggling with alcoholism and will give up his run for a second term in Congress to join Focus on recovery and his family.
Garrett, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is the 48th Republican to retire or announce that they will not go for reelection to the House this year, according to a list maintained by the House press gallery. Many are awaiting a strong democratic performance in Congress regattas this fall and out of frustration with partisan politics in Washington.
Virginia's former state senator was faced with a robust challenge by his Democratic challenger, journalist and author Leslie Cockburn, who had collected more money than he and had more cash at hand. In recent days, unnamed former employees have accused him and his wife of mistreating employees who work in his congress office.
But in a video recording, Garrett said his turn away from politics was spurred on by his addiction.
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His announcement concludes a week of unrest in Garrett's Washington office, marked by the resignation of his chief of staff, Jimmy Keady ; an online news report in which he considered dropping his re-election offer; and a press conference on Thursday, when Garrett insisted he run.
On Friday, a Politico report quoted four unidentified former employees accusing Garrett and his wife Flanna of ordering staff to walk with their dog, carry food, or perform other personal tasks for the couple – a practice which is prohibited by the ethics rules of the house.
To corroborate these allegations, the Washington Post interviewed two former employees who said the couple would occasionally call employees to do personal housework. The former employees did not want to be named for fear of retaliation.
Garrett, 46, declined to answer questions on Friday about these allegations. In the video statement, he said, "Recent attacks on my family and myself have been a series of half-truths and lies.
He said he was honest in every aspect of his life, except for his drinking, which he said that people close to him had warned him since his early twenties.
Cockburn said she wished Garrett and his family all the best. "Obviously it was a very difficult week for Tom Garrett and I think that's a great one Cause that he recognized the problem and admitted it, "she said.
Garrett is an Army veteran, former state senator and former Commonwealth lawyer with a libertarian vein, and won the election in his district in central Virginia by 16 percentage points in 2016, surpassing President Trump by about 5 points to secure the retirement of Robert Hurt (R).
He was formally nominated for another term His upcoming departure means that the 5th Republican Congressional Committee, which has about three dozen members, will elect a new candidate for Cockburn.
Republican observers of Virginia politics have said that possible candidates from the General Assembly could be Senator William M. Stanley Jr. (Franklin), Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel (Fauquier) and Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Albemarle). Tech manager Michael Del Rosso and businessman and developer Jim McKelvey were looking for the GOP nomination in 2016 and might be interested in it.
Long-standing GOP advisor Chris LaCivita – who led the campaign of Garrett's predecessor in Congress, Robert Hurt – said a candidate without Garrett's luggage could have an easier path to victory than Garrett.
"There will be a command focus to hold this seat, which means the party's fundraising apparatus will be effective," he said.
Garrett announced his announcement on Sunday in front of the Virginia State Capitol. Wearing a dark suit and tie on a hot, humid day, he stood by a monument to Barbara Johns, who in 1951, as a teenager, staged a strike against the bad conditions in her secluded Farmville High School. Garrett has submitted a bill to posthumously award John's Congressional Gold Medal.
"Not out of fear of losing or lack of love for our great nation, today I announce that I will not seek re-election," he said as the camera rolled. "Winning at times means knowing where your priorities should be, my devotion to the ideals and beliefs in America has not wavered, but my commitment to be the best husband, father, and friend is to address the only truth that I was here because I did not want to tell, God blessed America and He blessed me, I'm not dying, I'm starting anew, great things can be done with work and dedication, that's no end to me or my values of ministry It's just a new beginning. "
In an interview, Garrett said he never drank at work.
"I've never, ever, ever had a drink during the day," he said. "I have no liquor in my drawer … When I knew I could drink [after work] I would drink and I would drink to my own disadvantage."
The news saddened some of his colleagues, including Senator David Mardsen (D-Fairfax), who said that Garrett helped him with some laws, even though they were politically "opposites".
"Tom was the type who would help you with problems he felt in public debates and discussions, even though he was not politically supported by him," Marsden said. "I wish him well, he will always be my friend."