Virginia Rep Tom Garrett said on Monday that he’s not seeking reelection in November.
Because he’s an alcoholic.
That’s right, the Republican House Rep, a freshman and a member of the House Freedom Caucus, has admitted that he has a problem and said he will not seek reelection.
“The recent attacks on my family are a series of half-truths and whole lies,” said Garrett. “But there’s one area where I haven’t been honest. The tragedy is that any person Republican, Democrat or independent who’s known me for a period of time and has any integrity knows two things: I am a good man and I am an alcoholic.”
Well, admitting it is the first step, they say. And it’s a good sign for Garrett as a person that he can acknowledge his own flaws.
But none of this would have happened if not for the increased media coverage that Rep. Garrett and his wife, Flanna, have drawn in recent days. Four former congressional aides has come forward claiming that Rep. Garrett and his wife has used official staff like personal servants, ordering them to run errands and take care of the Garretts’ dog.
While congressional staffers sometimes do have to deal with the indignity of being treated like personal assistants, they rarely have to serve as nannies, chauffeurs, dog-walkers, grocery-buyers, dry-cleaning deliverymen, and all around gofers. Staffers in Garrett’s office described a toxic work environment in which they were forced to perform all these tasks and more.
Staffers were forced to come pick up Rep. Garrett from his home when he had overslept. They were forced to chauffeur his children several hours back and forth from his Congressional district in central VA (the 5th VA district, for those of you who may care). Staffers were even forced to walk his Jack Russel-Pomeranian mix, and pick the dog’s poop up off the floor of Garrett’s Capitol Hill office.
None of that would be particularly outside the norm for a personal assistant. But official congressional staff are not legally allowed to handle personal tasks of that kind.
Sending official staff, who are paid on the public’s dime, to handle personal errands is a violation of House ethics rules. (And federal law, besides.)
Rep. Garrett’s behavior in recent months had also been described as “erratic”, and some staffers said they saw him drinking in his office. That may have flown in the Congress of the 1950s but it’s widely frowned upon now.
This admission by Tom Garrett, that he’s suffering from the disease of alcoholism, certainly explains some of that behavior. But it doesn’t justify it, and so it’s certainly for the best that Rep. Garrett leaves Congress, hopefully to seek treatment.
Garrett’s decision not to run in November will also allow Republican officials in his district to pick a stronger candidate to run against Democrat challenger Leslie Cockburn.
Cockburn, a journalist, is already mounting a fierce challenge for the seat. Garrett himself was largely unable to secure campaign funding, and Republicans had feared the seat might fall to Cockburn.
With Tom Garrett out of the way, and a more professional and credible Republican candidate in his place, the GOP stands a better chance of holding the seat come November.