On Wednesday afternoon, Politico reported that Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett, a freshman Republican and a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, was in “turmoil,” and was considering not running for re-election. The story was scant on details, but did note that Garrett had split with his chief of staff, Jimmy Keady, on Tuesday evening, and that fundraising totals for his surprisingly competitive central Virginia district had been poor.
How is one to tell when Tom Garrett is in “turmoil”? He’s an emotional, garrulous personality who could be confused for someone mid-breakdown when he’s really just living another day of his life. When I saw him earlier on Tuesday at a Freedom Caucus event, Garrett was fired up, speaking disdainfully about the moderates who had signed the immigration discharge petition.
On Wednesday, Garrett dodged questions about the situation with his chief of staff, and whether he would run for re-election. Finally, on Thursday morning, he convened a press conference—an odd one.
The Virginian spoke for about 20 minutes in a live broadcast on Facebook. Since there was no dais in the room, he spoke into a microphone that someone held up for him the entire time. He delivered a long spiel about his accomplishments in both the state legislature and the 115th Congress. He spoke (convincingly) about his frustration in trying, and failing so far, to get help from the administration for his constituent Joanne Boyle, who quit as University of Virginia women’s basketball coach this spring to sort out the convoluted paperwork surrounding her adopted 6-year-old from Senegal.
Eventually, he got to the point.
“In frustration, I said, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this anymore,’” he said, and within minutes of talking about this with some confidants, reporters were texting him. But after 24 hours of thinking and praying, he decided that “there is no way in heck that I’m not gonna be back here in 2019 as a member of the Congress representing the 5th District of Virginia, because too darn much is at stake.” When taking questions, he reiterated that the frustrations of Washington just got to him.
Maybe that’s all it was! Congress is a deeply frustrating place to serve day in and day out, on account of it being structurally broken. It’s worse when you’re a freshman.
Or perhaps there’s more to this story?