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GOP rep sticks by reelection bid in bizarre press conference

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Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) announced in a rambling press conference Thursday that he'll continue with his reelection bid.

Garrett's announcement comes one day after the abrupt departure of his chief of staff and reports that he was considering stepping down. Garrett had invited press to the event at the National Indian Gaming Association's Washington office, but had not made clear until he spoke whether he would run for re-election.

Following a 25-minute speech that jumped from Garrett's legislative record to repeatedly return to his efforts to help Sudanese refugees, the first-term conservative told reporters he is "absolutely, positively running for reelection."

Garrett, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is facing a difficult midterm race rated as "lean Republican" by Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election analyst.

In his speech, Garrett said he had briefly considered retiring due to the dysfunction in Congress, but ultimately decided he should continue to try to pursue his legislative goals.

Garrett also remained vague about his chief of staff's exit, insisting that the staffer had not been fired.

"Yesterday, in frustration, I said, 'I don't know if I do this anymore' - in the last 24 hours I've had an opportunity to think and pray a lot. And guess what? This country was founded by people who took great risks to do what they thought was right and the sacrifices that my wife and I make are not small, but they pale in comparison to those who play God in their lives," he said. "And with that, I will tell you that there is no way in heck that I'm not going to be back here in 2019 as a member of the Congress representing the fifth district of Virginia because too darn much is at stake."

Garrett apologized for the confusion ahead of the press conference, before urging the media to cover his work to help University of Virginia women's basketball coach Joanne Boyle obtain citizenship for her adopted daughter from Senegal.

"I confided in some people yesterday some thoughts that my wife and I were discussing and 15 minutes later I was getting texts from the press - God bless you guys, I mean this shouldn't have happened this way," he said. "And then as we sort of started contemplating what to do next, I thought, 'hey, look if they want to cover a story, I'm going to give them a story.'"

At one point, Garrett went on a lengthy digression that covered a number of historical and biblical figures.

"I know who I am, I know who you are. Whether you agree with me politically or disagree with me politically - who we're supposed to be, right?" Garrett said. "That our nation was founded by imperfect people like a slave-owner named Jefferson on near-perfect ideas. When King David was God's favorite, he was doing things that were wrong. When Moses was asked to leave the Israelites out of Egypt he argued with God. Jefferson did bad things, but he had good ideas and that the American Revolution is perpetual."

Garrett noted the difficulties of running in the current political climate, adding that it "bothers me sometimes." And Garrett lobbed some vague jabs at political foes.

"There was an individual who aspired to run against me - who I will not disparage by name because I'm about the same as he is - who said, 'folks like Tom Garrett are a cancer on our nation.' Let me tell you what's a cancer on our nation - folks who use such hyperbolic vitriol to characterize those with whom they disagree. That's a cancer on the nation."

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