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Virginia U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett exits re-election race

Garrett discloses he’s an alcoholic, amid controversy over alleged misuse of his congressional staff

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

RICHMOND (CFP) — Freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia has announced he not seek re-election this fall because he is an alcoholic, while also insisting that allegations that he and his wife misused his congressional staff to perform personal errands are untrue.

U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Virginia

Garrett’s departure means Virginia Republicans will now have to pick a replacement candidate in the 5th District, where the GOP faces a strong challenge from Democrat Leslie Cockburn.

In an emotional statement videotaped outside the State Capitol on Memorial Day, Garrett called the allegations of misuse of staff, first made by Politico, “a series of half truths and whole lies.”

But he also said anyone “who has known me for any length of time and has any integrity knows two things — I am a good man, and I am an alcoholic.”

“Sometimes winning means knowing where your priorities should be. My devotion to the ideas and belief in America has not wavered, but my commitment to be the best husband, father and friend means addressing the only truth I’ve been heretofore unwilling to tell,” he said.

Garrett, 46, a former prosecutor, won election to the 5th District seat in 2016, after serving five years in the Virginia Senate. The sprawling district takes in much of central Virginia from the Washington, D.C. suburbs to the North Carolina border.

Garrett’s decision to depart the race comes amid concerns by Republican leaders about weak fundraising for the coming battle with Cockburn, a former network television producer and correspondent.

As of April, Federal Election Commission reports show that he had raised only $433,000 and had just $133,000 in cash; Cockburn had raised $715,000, with $271,000 remaining.

Citing four unidentified former staffers, Politico reported on May 25 that Garrett and his wife, Flanna, used staff members to run personal errands, including taking care of their dog, which would be a violation of House ethics rules.

In his withdrawal statement, Garrett refuted the allegations, which he said are “driven more by Republicans than Democrats.”

“These attacks aren’t true, and I can prove that,” he said.

The Politico story came two days after reports began surfacing that Garrett was considering dropping his re-election bid after his chief of staff resigned. The next day, he held a news conference in which he insisted that he would run again but giving a performance described in press accounts as “rambling” and “bizarre.”

With the filing deadline for Virginia’s June 12 primary closed, the 5th District Republican Committee will now pick a replacement for Garrett. Cockburn is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Garrett won the 5th District race by 16 points in 2016; President Donald Trump carried it by 11 points.


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