Could it be: Two Rappahannock residents vying for 5th district seat?

Town of Washington resident Joe Whited throws his hat back into the ring

In the wake of freshman Rep. Tom Garrett’s surprise announcement that he won’t seek a second term in Congress, how intriguing politically speaking would it be for tiny Rappahannock County to field both the Democrat and Republican contenders for the important 5th district seat?

That might not be such a stretch.

Town of Washington resident Joe Whited, a 2016 Republican primary candidate who fell short in the vote tally against Garrett, announced Wednesday that he is back for round two.

A national security expert who is no stranger to Capitol Hill, Whited recalled saying after his unsuccessful primary two years ago that it wouldn’t be his final campaign.

“I quoted President Reagan, who said ‘there are really no last campaigns; each generation must renew and win again for itself the precious gift of liberty, the sacred heritage of freedom,’ and I assured you that it was not our last campaign,” he told supporters yesterday.

Whited said his heart went out to Garrett after his former opponent acknowledged earlier this week that he was an alcoholic and therefore was bowing out of his short lived race against Rappahannock resident Leslie Cockburn, a former producer for “60 Minutes” who just this month won the Democratic nomination to face the incumbent congressman.

Now, on the heels of Garrett’s unexpected withdrawal from the race, Whited said he’s been “incredibly touched and deeply humbled by the outpouring of encouragement and support from friends across the district over the last 24 hours” to run again for the high profile seat.

“And it is with a deep awareness of the trust you are placing in me by asking me to seek office that I am proud to announce today that I am running for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 5th District of Virginia . . .

“We will show that there is only one candidate in this race with the breadth of experience and deep understanding of the issues, from national security to the challenges faced by our small businesses and farmers here in the Commonwealth, to not only represent the 5th district but be able to hit the ground running in Congress.”

The 38-year-old Whited certainly knows his way around those hallowed halls on Capitol Hill, most recently as congressional caucus director of the Millennial Action Project, a nonpartisan group dedicated to fostering cooperative political leadership while revitalizing the economy. In the post, he sets the policy agenda for a bipartisan caucus of over 40 members of Congress.

Additionally, he’s been the House Armed Services Committee’s lead on defense intelligence matters, and was the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) chief of congressional liaison and senior Russian Forces analyst and strategic planner.

A military veteran, he was the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Intelligence for Surveillance and Reconnaissance Operations Combined Forces in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, and served as intelligence advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

As for a potential run against Cockburn, Whited says: “Have no doubt, we are at risk of losing this seat to the Democrats in November, and we must nominate someone who has the ideas, the energy, and the resources to go the distance this fall. In short, I am that candidate . . .”

This would apparently be the first time a U.S. congressional race featured two Rappahannock residents — Democrat and Republican candidates — going head to head.

“To my knowledge it is certainly an event without precedent in the 5th district,” Whited told the Rappahannock News. “As I have traveled the district, the thing that has always struck me is how these large swaths of rural Virginia . . . share so many of the same challenges, from declining population and loss of jobs to the need for broadband access. I think that fact makes someone from Rappahannock a perfect fit for the 5th.”

Before Whited could face Cockburn, who outraised Garrett in campaign contributions despite the district favoring Republicans, he would have to get the nod from his party’s selection committee, which reportedly has several potential replacement candidates waiting in the wings.

The 5th District Republican Committee will iron out the voting process during a meeting this Saturday, June 2, at a location still to be determined.

“Each of the 37 members of the committee will have a single vote and the first candidate to make it to 19 will be the nominee,” Whited understands of the process, meaning the “lowest vote getter in each round will be out. These rules may change.”

Either way, the Washington resident made his bid for the nomination official in a letter Tuesday night to Melvin Adams, chair of the GOP committee.

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John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at