Virginia Rep. Thomas Garrett says he is dropping his bid for re-election because of his alcoholism and a desire to be with his family — an announcement that came just days after he insisted he was not quitting.
"There's one area where I haven't been honest. The tragedy is that 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, a Republican, said in a video statement Monday as he choked back tears.
"This is the hardest statement that I have ever publicly made, by far. It's also the truth," he said.
Last week, Garrett, who represents Virginia's 5th Congressional District, had been the subject of reports by Politico and The Washington Post that he and his wife routinely demanded that aides working in his office perform menial tasks for the couple — a practice prohibited by House ethics rules.
Politico said that it had spoken to four former members of Garrett's staff who "detailed a deeply dysfunctional office" and that the congressional representative and his wife, Flanna, frequently dispatched staff "to pick up groceries, chauffeur Garrett's daughters to and from his Virginia district, and fetch clothes that the congressman forgot at his Washington apartment. They were even expected to watch and clean up after Sophie, their Jack Russell-Pomeranian mix, the aides said."
In his videotaped statement, Garrett denied the accusations, calling them "half-truths and whole lies."
"Sometimes winning means knowing where your priorities should be. My devotion to the ideals and beliefs 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.
"God has blessed America and he's blessed me. I am not dying. I am starting anew. With work and dedication, great things can be done. This isn't an ending for me or my values of service to my fellow man. It's just a new beginning," he said.
The exit of Garrett brings to 48 the number of Republicans from the 115th Congress who have left or are vacating their seats this election year, according to a "Casualty List" kept by the U.S. House of Representatives Press Gallery. That compares to 20 Democrats.
According to The Washington Post, "Garrett, 46, was facing a robust challenge from his Democratic opponent, journalist and author Leslie Cockburn, who had raised more money and had more cash on hand than he had."
The Post reports:
"Cockburn said she wished Garrett and his family well. 'Obviously, it's been a very, very difficult week for Tom Garrett and I think this is a great thing that he's recognized the problem and admitted it,' she said.
"Garrett is an Army veteran and former commonwealth's attorney with a libertarian streak. He won election in his central Virginia district by 16 percentage points in 2016, outperforming President Trump by about five points. Garrett succeeded retiring Rep. Robert Hurt (R)."