RICHMOND — Del. Thomas Davis Rust, facing a tough reelection fight, announced Wednesday that he will drop his bid for another term.
Rust (R-Herndon), who was mayor of Herndon for almost 20 years, served 13 years in the House with a focus on transportation and education issues.
“I’ve been fortunate in my life to receive some recognition and awards from various groups in both my public life and my professional life. I treasure those, I truly do, but nothing is quite like being a member of this historic body. It’s truly an honor to have served with you,” he said.
Rust, a 73-year-old civil engineer who is well-liked in the House, received a long, standing ovation from his colleagues.
Rust had faced a difficult reelection battle this fall against Jennifer Boysko, a Democrat who lost to him by just 32 votes two years ago.
Boysko praised him and said she volunteered for his first campaign for delegate, although they disagree on many issues.
“It is always difficult to run against someone you personally respect. I challenged him because I have been troubled by the Republicans in Richmond who have made it more difficult to govern in a moderate, common-sense manner, as Tom Rust so capably did as our mayor,” she said in a statement.
House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said the swing district is a difficult one for a Republican to win.
“I was always amazed he won every single time he ran for election,” he said. “We’ve been privileged to have you as a member of this body. You’ve done right, you’ve made this body proud. Godspeed.”
Cox’s speech kicked off a litany of tributes to Rust, many of them praising his bipartisanship.
House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) called Rust a friend and “one of the most effective legislators in Richmond, demonstrating a willingness to look at and find solutions to complicated issues.”
“Tom has played a major role in passing landmark reforms to higher education and transportation, and offered valuable expertise and insight on a myriad of other issues. His solutions-oriented nature and affable demeanor will be missed,” he said in a statement.
Del. Kenneth R. Plum (D-Fairfax), whose district neighbors Rust’s, said of Herndon: “He took a sleepy little backward town and brought it into the modern era.”
Rust’s retirement announcement comes the week after the House took the unusual step of essentially killing a bill he opposed that supporters say would have increased participation in local elections.
Democrats favored moving local elections in Herndon from May, when relatively few voters show up at the polls, to the November general election, when voters flock to the polls to cast ballots in presidential, congressional and statewide races.
Rust said he was worried that residents would lose track of local nonpartisan races amid the flurry of ads touting high-profile races in the fall. He also noted that the town council was split on the change, although they ultimately favored it.