Tom Garrett announces he will not seek reelection

The one-term congressman cited alcoholism as the primary reason for his retirement


Garrett was first elected to represent Virginia's Fifth Congressional District in 2016. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Rep. Tom Garrett — the Republican congressman representing Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Charlottesville and Albemarle County — announced Monday he would not run in the 2018 midterm elections. In a video statement, he said he has struggled with alcoholism and needs to focus on recovery and spending time with his family.

“This is the hardest statement that I have ever publicly made, by far,” Garrett said. “It’s also the truth … sometimes winning means knowing where your priorities should be.”

Garrett’s announcement was preceded by two reports in POLITICO — in the first, that Garrett was considering not seeking reelection; in the second, that multiple former employees alleged the congressman had asked them to do personal errands, including cleaning up after his pet dog.

In his video Monday, which was first reported by the Washington Post, Garrett said the articles were a series of “half-truths and whole-lies.”

Given Garrett’s decision — which came only days after a press conference where the congressman said he did plan to seek reelection — Sabato’s Crystal Ball associate editor Geoffrey Skelley predicts the Fifth District race could become closer between the eventual Republican nominee and Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn.

“Open seats tend to be more vulnerable to swings against the president’s party in midterms, so that’s part of our thinking,” Skelley said in an email to The Cavalier Daily last week after the first POLITICO report. “Still, Donald Trump won the 5th by 11 points and Ed Gillespie won it by nine while losing statewide by nine, so it’s a Republican-leaning district that won’t be easy for a Democrat to actually win. Who the GOP nominates will also be of interest, of course.”

Monday evening, Skelley said in an email his previous comment is still relevant, but the new information about Garrett could mean a replacement candidate may fare better against Cockburn in the Nov. 6 general election. 

“Our new rating is more competitive but it’s possible — given the new information about Garrett — that the GOP replacement will actually be a stronger candidate for Republicans,” Skelley said. “We will just have to see.”

The replacement candidate will be selected by the Fifth District Republican Committee. Under the Republican Party of Virginia’s “party plan,” the committee is authorized to fill Garrett’s vacancy by a majority vote in a formal meeting. The Fifth District Republican Committee did not immediately return a request for comment Monday evening.

Crystal Ball Managing Editor Kyle Kondik said on Twitter Monday evening that the Crystal Ball will change the forecast for Garrett’s seat from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican” after Garrett’s announcement. 

Last month, Cook Political Report — an independent election forecasting firm like Sabato’s Crystal Ball — downgraded Garrett’s chances from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican,” but the Crystal Ball did not change its ratings.

In a tweet Monday evening, Cockburn said the announcement “must be a very difficult time for [Garrett], his family and staff” and said that she wishes him well. 

Garrett was first elected to the seat in 2016, when he beat Democrat Jane Dittmar in that year’s general election. 

This is a developing story. 

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