Former U.S. Representative Tom Garrett announced his campaign for the GOP nomination in Virginia’s House of Delegates District 56, where he’ll face Jennie Wood, a marketing director and fundraising consultant with experience in the Goochland GOP unit and State Senator Mark Peake’s (R-Lynchburg) legislative office.
In 2018, Garrett announced he wouldn’t seek reelection to Congress, citing problems with alcoholism, according to Politico, which reported the congressman and his wife had used official staff for personal errands and chores. At the time, Garrett partially denied the allegations but said, “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 period of time and has any integrity knows two things: I am a good man and I am an alcoholic.”
On Tuesday, by the Virginia Civil Rights Monument, he announced his campaign for Virginia’s House. He told The Richmond Times-Dispatch, “I’m an alcoholic. I’ll always be an alcoholic,” adding, “I haven’t had to drink in four-and-a-half years. As soon as I start declaring victory over anything, it will come back and tap me on the shoulder.”
Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) is backing Garrett, saying personal past difficulties shouldn’t be a barrier to public office. He said the “establishment in D.C.” worked against Garrett.
“He was one of the first people to see the struggle developing between parents wanting to protect their kids and a government incessantly pushing an agenda on them,” Freitas told The Virginia Star. “He effectively stood against it. On every issue I care about from individual liberty, property rights, second amendment rights, protecting the unborn, education reform, tax and regulatory reform, Tom has a record I can trust.”
Jennie Wood announced her candidacy for the seat in June, and is planning a kickoff later this month. Her campaign website also touts typical GOP primary issues including medical freedom, pro-life policies, education, rural infrastructure, and guns. She told The Star that small business is important to her, in part because her father immigrated to the U.S. from Brazil.
“He built an amazing life for my family from nothing, absolutely nothing. And seeing how he just took a simple opportunity and turned it into a good life has inspired me to want to keep that alive in America,” she said. “So I’m very passionate about small businesses.”
Wood worked as a session aide for Peake in the 2022 General Assembly session, but Peake hasn’t endorsed in the race.
“I like Jennie a lot, and I think she’s an excellent person. And I like Tom Garrett a lot. I think he’s an excellent person. I think they’re both excellent candidates, and both will do a great job,” Peake said. “But I’m unlikely to get involved in that primary.”
Peake, who represented the region under old Senate district lines, said the district is very conservative. According to estimates at The Virginia Public Access Project, Governor Glenn Youngkin won among district voters by 64.9 percent in 2021, with previous Republicans winning by similarly large margins. VPAP lists one Democrat running for the seat, Buckingham County Supervisor Thomas Jordan Miles III.
Garrett needs to overcome his checkered background, but Wood needs to get more party support and build her name recognition to win the primary.
“How do you beat somebody who has name recognition? You help people. That’s how. I joke that I volunteer my way into people’s hearts, but there’s a bit of truth to that,” she said.
Wood said, “In the end, people will see the difference. People know the stories. A simple Google search will tell you all you need to know, and I have faith that good will prevail in the end.”
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Editor’s Note: John Fredericks is the Publisher of The Virginia Star.