The choice of Cockburn, a nationally recognized TV personality known for her tough investigative reports, ramps up the stakes for Garrett, one of the Republican party’s leading cannabis legalization advocates.
Democrat Leslie Cockburn, a former 60 Minutes reporter, is taking on Rep. Tom Garrett, a Republican who has championed the federal legalization of cannabis.
With Cockburn’s entry into the race, Garrett becomes the second pro-legalization Republican Congress member to face an uncertain re-election campaign in a district that’s normally a safe GOP seat.
“I really don’t care about marijuana,” Garrett said at a political conference in Washington, DC, last year. “What I do care about is individual liberty. What I do care about is justice. What I do care about is economic opportunity.”
It’s too early to say where Cockburn stands on legalization.
How Safe Is Garrett’s Seat?
Heading into the 2016 election, Ballotpedia had Garrett’s district ranked as a safe Republican seat. Garrett proved it to be so, beating his Democratic challenger 58% to 42% in a race with no incumbent.
As recently as the 2006 and 2008 elections the district was a near-tossup, with the Republican winning just over 50% of the vote.
And Cockburn appears to fit the profile of the most formidable candidates in the upcoming election: a tough, experienced woman inspired by her outrage over the words, actions, and policies of President Trump.
“I was really very offended by Donald Trump,” she said over the weekend.
Cockburn beat out Marine veteran Roger Dean Huffstetler and Andrew Sneathern, a former prosecutor, in the 5th district Democratic contest. Democrats in Virginia’s 5th congressional district opted to pick a candidate through multiple caucuses rather than in a primary.
Cockburn said building enough support to win the caucuses required intense retail politicking throughout a district bigger than New Jersey.
Democrats are hopeful they can pick up a seat in a district Trump won in the 2016 election as part of an effort to take control of the US House. A former prosecutor and state senator, Garrett is a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus.