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Virginia NOW President Lisa Sales was quoted by the Associate Press in a recent story:

4 Virginia legislative candidates, including ex-congressman, are accused of violence against women

Updated 1:18 PM EST, November 3, 2023
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett was only months into his second year in Congress in 2018 when he announced he would drop his bid for reelection to seek treatment for alcoholism.

Garrett kept a low profile for the next four years until he announced last November that he would run for the Virginia House of Delegates. But his political comeback has been marked by allegations of abuse in a bitter divorce. His estranged wife, Flanna Sheridan Garrett, has accused him of “a long line of physical and emotional abuses,” including an allegation that he choked her while she lay in a hotel bed with their infant daughter beside her.

Garrett, who denies the accusations, is among four candidates for state legislative seats in Virginia this year who have been accused of physical violence against women — two during divorce proceedings, one in a pending criminal case and one in criminal cases decades ago that ended with charges being dismissed.

One of the four men lost his bid for reelection to his Senate seat in the primary, but the other three are on the ballot in Tuesday’s high-stakes general election, with control of both the House and the Senate on the line in a state with a narrow political divide.

The accusations have garnered a mixed but relatively muted reaction from members of the candidates’ own parties, although Lisa Sales, president of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for Women, said voters and Democrats and Republicans alike should be concerned. She noted that none of the candidates has been convicted of a crime, and she said much of the attention in Virginia has been focused on partisan politics, with Democrats holding a slim majority in the Senate and Republicans narrowly controlling the House.

“Domestic and sexual violence is not blue, and it’s not red,” she said. “The parties are scared that it’s going to impact the outcome of the races because the balance of power is so close, and so (they) brush these things under the rug.”

Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said partisan politics may have overtaken character concerns in the fury of the current political moment.

“During the age of Trump, it does seem like a great deal of misconduct is tolerable if the person who is accused of that misconduct is on your partisan team,” Farnsworth said.

Garrett, who did not grant an Associated Press interview request, won the GOP nomination, and with his only competition in Tuesday’s general election two write-in candidates, he appears headed for an easy victory in the heavily Republican 56th District.

In a more competitive legislative race, Democrat Clinton Jenkins has been forced to explain assault and battery charges he faced in the late 1990s and early 2000s — they were ultimately dismissed — after his opponent, Republican Emily Brewer, ran TV ads highlighting the allegations and calling Jenkins a domestic abuser.

Brewer and Jenkins, who continues to receive money and support from fellow Democrats, are competing in a state Senate district that stretches from Hampton Roads into Southside Virginia. Both are current members of the House of Delegates.

Court records show Jenkins was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery of a family member, who in 1997 wrote in a criminal complaint that Jenkins slapped her face, squeezed her head and “said he was going to kill me.”

Read more on the Associated Press website.