Cantor Conqueror

Who Is David Brat?

In one of the most remarkable upsets in primary history, Eric Cantor, the Republicans’ No. 2 in the House, was defeated by an unknown economics professor.

Steve Helber/AP

After his stunning upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the GOP primary for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, Americans had one question about victor David Brat: Who the hell is this guy?

An economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, a small liberal arts college outside Richmond, Brat became the first person to defeat a House majority leader in a primary since the position was created. (No speaker of the House has ever lost a primary either, for that matter). Students at Randolph-Macon find Brat to be relatively hot, earning a highlighted chili pepper but not one on fire, according to the website, but also a tough teacher who one comment described as “almost too smart to teach.” The courses that he teaches include introductory macro and micro economics classes as well as more advanced seminars on Economic Justice and Britain In The International Economy.

The Republican nominee and married father of two earned a master’s in divinity from Princeton before getting an economics Ph.D from American University. He grew up in Michigan, where he earned his bachelor’s degree at Hope College. Brat has also worked as an economist in the Army and for the accounting firm Arthur Andersen.

In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, Brat took a strong small-government stance, proclaiming his strident support for “free markets” and “rule of law” as well as noting that the federal government can’t solve every problem in life. The newly minted Republican nominee went on to proclaim his allegiance to Main Street in what he described as “a fissure between Main Street and Wall Street” that found Cantor and him on different sides. In Brat’s opinion, immigration reform was “the most symbolic issue that captures the difference” between the two. He went on to note that “if you really want to help the third world, [the answer] is to encourage property rights, rule of law and get rid of the dictators.” As Brat noted, “We did that in World War II with Japan and Germany.”

In addition to being against immigration reform, Brat takes all the expected orthodox conservative positions. On his website, he boasts of his support for term limits, a balanced budget amendment and gun rights as well as his opposition to Common Core and abortion.

One prominent supporter, the Daily Caller’s Mickey Kaus, kvelled about Brat on Tuesday night to The Daily Beast, describing him as a very straightforward, honest, decent guy. He went on to liken Brat to the “right-wing version of guy who is always cast in Hollywood movies who accidentally becomes president,” like Kevin Kline in Dave.

But while Brat attracted some support on the right, most prominently from talk-radio show host Laura Ingraham, he was still dramatically outspent. In fact, according to the most recent FEC report, Cantor had spent more money visiting steakhouses in the past year in the course of holding fundraisers than Brat had spent on his entire campaign. In contrast to Cantor’s glad-handing around the country as majority leader, Brat earned scorn from prominent conservatives for skipping meetings with them in May to grade final exams.

Now all the bespectacled professor needs to do to win election to Congress from this heavily Republican district is beat his Randolph-Macon faculty colleague Jack Trammell, the sociology instructor who won the Democratic primary. It should be relatively easy. Rate My Professor has Trammell as a slightly better teacher, but he’s not as hot as the conservative rising star.