On 3rd Thought, Representative Tom Garrett Retires, Citing Alcoholism

Less than two years ago, Tom Garrett of Virginia was sworn in as a congressman. His short, wild ride is now over. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP/REX/Shutterstock

U.S. Representative Tom Garrett, a Virginia Republican, has had a tumultuous one-term congressional career. Here’s what he had to say in abruptly announcing its termination:

“Any person — Republican, Democrat or independent — who has known me for any period of time and has any integrity knows two things: I am a good man and I’m an alcoholic,” Garrett, fighting back tears, said in a video shot Monday afternoon on Richmond’s Capitol Square. “This is the hardest statement that I have ever publicly made by far. It’s also the truth”

Not knowing the man personally, I followed his erratic career — and particularly his really erratic campaign for reelection — not knowing that he was a victim of alcoholism, which has symptoms that do tend to overlap with the kind of ideological fevers and vulnerability to political pressures to which Garrett was manifestly subject. Near the beginning of the weekend that culminated with the embattled congressman’s self-defenestration, he surprised a lot of observers by confirming a reelection bid that most thought he was giving up via poor fundraising efforts and generally strange behavior. Then he was hammered by a Politico report that he and his wife had succumbed to the common but politically devastating temptation of turning congressional staff into The Help and saddling them with completely non-governmental chores. Now, presumably, he is going to get the help he actually needs.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is scrambling to turn this bowl of broken eggs into an omelet, as the Washington Post reports:

[Garrett] was officially nominated to seek another term months ago. His impending departure means the 5th Congressional District Republican Committee, which has about three dozen members, will choose a new nominee to face Cockburn.

As the story unfolded over the past few days, Republican observers of Virginia politics have said possible candidates from the General Assembly could be state Sen. William M. Stanley Jr. (Franklin), Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (Fauquier) and Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Albemarle). Tech executive Michael Del Rosso and businessman and developer Jim McKelvey both sought the nomination in 2016 and could also be interested.

The Democratic nominee in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, Leslie Cockburn, who was raising more money than Garrett, is looking pretty good at the moment. Voters in the district will presumably be looking for a calmer form of representation in November.

On 3rd Thought, Rep. Tom Garrett Retires, Citing Alcoholism