Garrett Bows Out: Hopeful Successors Line Up

May 29, 2018

Republican Tom Garrett has announced he will not seek re-election from Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, after media reports that he and his wife treated Congressional staffers like servants – asking them to run personal errands, to care for their dog and kids.  Garrett stood outside the state capitol in Richmond Monday to confess he is an alcoholic and said he would bow out of November’s race. 

Congressman Tom Garrett (center) says he's an alcoholic and will not run for re-election.
Credit Tom Garrett

Anonymous members of Garrett’s staff complained of being asked to run errands and to care for the Congressman’s dog and children.  His chief of staff quit, and Politico reported turnover in his office was one of the highest on Capitol Hill.  Now, it’s Garrett who’s leaving.

“The tragedy is that any person who has known me for any period of time and has any integrity knows two things. I am a good man, and I am an alcoholic," he said during an improptu news conference outside the state capitol building in Richmond. "This is the hardest statement that I have ever publicly made by far, and it is also the truth.”

Fellow politicians wished Garrett well in seeking treatment, but many also began the search for his replacement on November’s ballot.  Whoever gets the nod from a committee of 36 Republicans in the district is likely to win a seat in Congress according to Bob Gibson, a former journalist who covered Virginia politics for 25 years.

Bob Gibson, a long-time political reporter for the Daily Progress, now serves as communications director for UVA's Weldon Cooper Center.
Credit UVA

“It was a sixteen point win for Tom Garrett two years ago," he recalls. "It was an 11-point win for President Trump that year, so it’s reliable Republican due to the gerrymandering that has it running from 12 miles south of the Maryland border in Fauquier County all the way to the North Carolina border.”

And, he adds, the district is even more Republican since boundaries were redrawn in 2011.  Still, he notes Democrat Leslie Cockburn has raised twice as much money as Garrett, and – at the moment – she’s the only one in the race. There will be a fight in Republican circles.  Fauquier County farmer Martha Bonita, Nelson County distiller Denver Riggleman, Businessman Jim McKelvey and Delegate Michael Webert have also said they’d like to run, and while they haven’t declared,  State Senators Bill Stanley and Bryce Reeves may also want the job.