David Brat, the man who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for the Republican nomination in Virginia’s seventh congressional district Tuesday night, is an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland.
Until he announced his plans to challenge Cantor in 2014, Brat had almost no formal political experience. He started sitting on the Virginia Governor Board of Economists under Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine. He graduated with a Ph. D. in economics from American University in 1995 after obtaining a master’s degree of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1990 and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Hope College in Michigan.
Brat’s opposition to Cantor’s congressional was multi-pronged, according to National Review Online, which interviewed him in January after he announced his plan to run. But immigration reform has dominated the headlines. Brat said in May that Cantor was “the number one cheerleader for amnesty in Congress,” the Huffington Post reported.
“I think that the working definition (of amnesty) out there is the pathway to legalization and citizenship,” Brat told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Tuesday hours before his upset. “In that instance, Eric Cantor is the author of House’s principles which allows for 6.5 million illegals to become legal and gain a pathway to citizenship.”
“Eric of course in the primary for the last two weeks says that he’s against all of this, and he’s even against all of his own bills that he’s written,” he added. “But I think the voters know and we’re having overwhelming success here today.”
He also criticized Cantor for his support for the Ryan-Murray budget deal that followed the end of last fall’s government shutdown and for not doing enough to stop Obamacare.
“He had two CRs at the end, one in favor of the shutdown and one opposed to the shutdown at the same time,” he told NRO. “And that’s fairly symbolic of unprincipled leadership… That’s not a leadership position, where you’re on Side A and Side B at the same time and you’ve got your finger up in the air, checking which way the wind is blowing.”
In early May, according to the Washington Post, Brat had $40,000 in his campaign coffers. Cantor had more than $2 million. But at the end of the Virginia primary on Tuesday night, he topped Cantor by 12 percentage points: 56 percent to 44 percent.
He had earned the endorsements of some major conservative media figures including Ann Coulter, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham. But he no-showed when asked to appear in front of anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, the Washington Post reported — because he had final exams upcoming at his school.
“I wish Dave could do this full time, but that’s not the reality of the situation,” Zach Werrell, Brat’s campaign manager, said. “We have a full-time operation but he has a job. Professional politicians like Eric Cantor can campaign all the time; we’re lay people.”
Correction: This post previously misidentified Brat’s divinity degree as being from Princeton University. He received the degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.