Representative Tom Garrett ended speculation about his future plans when he said Thursday that he would run for reelection in November. Garrett's announcement came at the end of an impassioned, occasionally rambling news conference in Washington, DC.
Garrett told reporters and those watching on Facebook Live that he "didn't want it to come out this way." He admitted that just 24 hours ago he was questioning whether he wanted to remain in Congress. Garrett said he told a few people about his consideration and it was soon in the media.
Before he finally said he would run again, much of Thursday's announcement dealt with Garrett's accomplishments in the Virginia legislature and Congress. Garrett passionately listed legislation and initiatives he had sponsored and punctuated his points with "I did that."
Garrett said the pinnacle of his time in Congress was greeting a pastor he helped free from prison in Sudan. "The role of the government is to help people," he said before moving on to the case of former University of Virginia women's basketball coach Joanne Boyle. Boyle has been trying to adopt a child from Senegal and quit her coaching job to keep the process alive. Garrett said Boyle has been unable to secure a visa from the United States to bring her daughter here. His efforts to intervene have, so far, brough no response from U. S. officials. "Our jobs are to serve people," Garrett said and he asked for the media's help in exposing the red tape that has stymied the case.
Garrett also decried the current political climate. Garrett said people who use hyperbolic vitriol to attack those who they disagree with are "a cancer on our nation." "I shouldn't let this stuff get to me. But it bothers me sometimes," Garrett said.
Garrett is in his first term representing Virginia's 5th District, which stretches from the North Carolina line to the outer suburbs of Washington, DC.
Geoffrey Skelley with the Univeristy of Virginia Center for Politics doubts the episode will have much effect on the race. "It's a little bizarre but not really that negative," Skelley said Thursday afternoon. He noted that the Fifth Congressional District is one of the more conservative districts in the state, so Garrett already has an advantage. Donald Trump won the district by eleven points in 2016. Republican Ed Gillespie won the Fifth by nine points in last year's governor's race, even though he lost the statewide race by nine points.