Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia said Monday he won’t run for re-election this year because he wants to seek treatment for alcoholism, becoming the 44th Republican in the House to retire ahead of the 2018 elections.
Garrett, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, announced his decision in a video statement, previously reported on by The Washington Post, in which he also made the announcement that he’s an alcoholic. CNN later obtained the video.
“Here’s one area where I haven’t been honest. The tragedy is that any person Republican, Democrat or independent, who’s known me for any period of time and has any integrity knows two things: I am a good man, and I am an alcoholic,” Garrett said in the video. “This is the hardest statement that I have ever publicly made, by far. It’s also the truth”
“With this in mind, not for fear of losing or for lack of love for our great nation, today I am announcing that I will not seek re-election. Sometimes winning means knowing where your priorities should be.”
Garrett, who previously worked as an attorney, was elected to Congress in 2016 to represent Virginia’s 5th District, which covers Charlottesville and other parts of central Virginia.
He also abruptly parted ways with his chief of staff last week, which was first reported by Politico.
Garrett is newly married with an infant daughter. He faced heavy criticism in the wake of last August’s Charlottesville white supremacist rally when a picture surfaced on Facebook of him and one of the event’s organizers, Jason Kessler.
Despite his association with Kessler (Garrett claimed he did not know about Kessler’s background at the time of the photo), Garrett was among a group of Charlottesville-based politicians who forcefully denounced the rhetoric of the neo-Nazi groups that participated.
Garrett’s decision will set off a scramble to determine a Republican nominee to replace him. The congressman already earned the GOP nomination at the end of March, so, according to Virginia law, his replacement is up to the purview of the Republican Party of Virginia. Virginia’s GOP gives the party’s congressional committee the authority to pick the replacement nominee. The committee could use whatever system they deem necessary to pick that replacement.
Republicans will want to move fast. Democrats already have a nominee in Leslie Cockburn, who has raised more than $700,000. Meanwhile, several GOP names have already been floated as potential candidates, including Del. Nick Fretias, currently the establishment pick for the GOP nomination for US Senate in the race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.
Fretias is locked in a divisive primary with the former Virginia Trump campaign chair Corey Stewart. Fretias’ winning the nomination is far from a sure bet and even if he secures the GOP nomination, he would be considered a heavy underdog to Kaine.
Frietas doesn’t live in the district, but that’s not a requirement for a federal election. His Senate campaign spokesperson declined to comment on rumors that he’d run for Garrett’s seat.
In addition to Fretias, Del. Rob Bell’s name has been floated, as has Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci and businessman Denver Riggleman.