UPDATED: Del. Gear resigns from House of Delegates on eve of 2011 session
Del. Thomas D. Gear (R-Hampton) has resigned from the Virginia House of Delegates, House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) confirmed late Thursday afternoon.
Cox said Gear is resigning because of his and his wife's poor health. The news was first reported by the conservative blog Bearing Drift. The timing of his resignation means his seat will be empty when the General Assembly convenes Jan. 12, and likely for much of the 46-day session.
A special election to fill the seat will be called by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) but McDonnell is required by law to hold the election no sooner than 45 days from the time of Gear's formal resignation to allow time for absentee ballots to reach troops stationed overseas. Sources in the governor's office say they were informed of Gear's resignation late Thursday.
Gear, 61, a former member of the Hampton City Council, is vice-chairman of the House's General Laws committee. Notably, he also chairs the subcommittee on Alcoholic Beverage Control. From that perch, he has been highly skeptical of McDonnell's signature proposal to privatize state-owned liquor stores.
Gear did not immediately return a call for comment.
UPDATE 5:40 p.m.: In an interview, Gear confirmed he has formally resigned from the House saying he felt it was the best decision for him as he battles the progression of multiple sclerosis. Gear said he was diagnosed with MS more than 30 years ago, but has felt the affects of the degenerative disease more severely in the last four to five years. It affects his balance and his ability to walk, he said, and it is made worse by stress. There's plenty of that during the annual legislative session, he noted.
Gear said he had several tough falls during the 2010 session. But it was a fall at his home on the day after Christmas this year that convinced him another session was a bad idea--particularly as helps his wife and sister both battle cancer.
Gear said he met with the governor Thursday to inform him of the decision and that McDonnell indicated he would decide soon when to hold a special election to fill his seat.
"This has been very emotional for me," Gear said, his voice cracking. "It's one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make."
Rosalind S. Helderman and Anita Kumar
| December 30, 2010; 4:12 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell
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