|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Virginia's 7th district
November 12, 2014 - January 3, 2019
David Alan Brat
July 27, 1964
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Education||Hope College (BA)|
American University (PhD)
David Alan Brat (born July 27, 1964) is an American academic and politician who is the dean of the Liberty University School of Business. A member of the Republican Party, he served as the U.S. Representative for Virginia's 7th congressional district from 2014 to 2019.
Brat came to national prominence when he defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the district's 2014 Republican primary. Brat's primary victory over Cantor made him the first primary challenger to oust a sitting House Majority Leader since the position's creation in 1899. He lost his reelection bid in the 2018 election to Democrat Abigail Spanberger.
David Alan Brat was born in Detroit, Michigan, on July 27, 1964. His father, Paul, was a doctor of internal medicine; his mother, Nancy, was employed as a social worker in Alma, Michigan, where he was raised. His family moved from Alma to Minnesota when David, the oldest of three boys, was in junior high. Brat graduated from Park Center Senior High School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
Brat earned a B.A. in business administration from Hope College in 1986, a master's degree in divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1990 and a Ph.D. in economics from American University in 1995.
After working for Arthur Andersen and as a consultant for the World Bank, in 1996 Brat joined the faculty of Randolph-Macon College, where he served as chair of the department of economics and taught courses including "Britain in the International Economy", "International Economic Development", and "Business Ethics".
From 2010 to 2012 Brat headed Randolph-Macon's BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism program, one of 60 similar programs and chairs in the philosophy and economics departments at United States universities devoted to the study of capitalism and morality, endowed by the BB&T Corporation.
In 2006 Brat was appointed by Virginia governor Tim Kaine to the Governor's Advisory Board of Economists, a position he continues to hold. He has also served on the board of directors of the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, and on the advisory board of the Virginia Public Access Project.
From 2005 to 2011 Brat worked as a special legislative assistant to Virginia state senator Walter Stosch in the area of higher education. In 2006 he was appointed by Democratic governor Tim Kaine to serve on a bipartisan economic advisory council. He was later reappointed by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell.
In August 2011 Brat announced he was running for the Virginia House of Delegates seat for the 56th district. There was no primary, and six Republican leaders met and chose Peter Farrell as the Republican nominee for the November 2011 general election.
Brat's run for the House of Representatives in 2014 was notable in its lack of resources and traditional campaign tactics. In his challenge of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for the Republican nomination, Brat was outspent by Cantor 40 to 1: Cantor spent over $5 million, while Brat raised $200,000 and did not spend all of it. Brat's primary campaign was managed by 23-year-old Zachary Werrell. An analysis of campaign filings conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics concluded that Brat did not receive any donations from political action committees (PACs), noting "it's almost impossible to profile Brat's typical donor, because he had so few." Brat's victory garnered national attention, as it was the first time a sitting House Majority Leader was defeated in his primary race since the position was created in 1899. Brat defeated Cantor by a 12-point margin.
Compared with Cantor, described as aloof, Brat was characterized as knowing how to work a crowd. He ran an anti-establishment campaign criticizing Cantor's position on illegal immigration, government bailouts and budget deals while frequently invoking God and the United States Constitution in his speeches. During the campaign, Cantor criticized Brat as a "liberal professor" who had strong ties to Tim Kaine, Virginia's former Democratic governor and current junior Senator.
Brat complained that Cantor had a "crony-capitalist mentality", putting the interests of the corporate sector ahead of small businesses.Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham endorsed Brat's candidacy and hosted a rally with him in a Richmond suburb. Brat was also supported by radio talk show host Mark Levin and Ann Coulter.Chris Peace, a state legislator who collaborated with Brat on state budget issues at Randolph-Macon College, said that Brat was inspired to run for Congress because of "his passion for the structure of government and belief in free markets."
Brat's victory was described in the press as exposing a "deep schism" in the Republican party between its conservative base and its business wing, as well as a split between establishment Republicans and Tea Party insurgents. Some libertarian groups, such as the Virginia Liberty Party, backed Brat.
Brat received support from, and gave credit for his win to, local Tea Party groups in Virginia, but received no funding or endorsement from national Tea Party organizations. Brat has not identified with the Tea Party movement. Ron Rapoport, a political scientist at the College of William & Mary, has said Brat may be correctly identified as a "tea partier" only if the term is used as a catchall for "anti-establishment activist", while John Judis has opined that Brat could more correctly be described as a "right-wing populist". Matea Gold in The Washington Post stated, "the fact that Brat took off without the help of those organizations [national tea party groups] now makes it harder for them to claim his victory as their own."
Although the national media were shocked at Brat's victory, Richmond-area media outlets had received signs well before the primary that Cantor was in trouble. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported two weeks before the primary that a number of Cantor's constituents felt he took them for granted. The Times-Dispatch also revealed that Cantor's attempt to brand Brat as a liberal professor actually made more people turn out for Brat.The Chesterfield Observer, a local paper serving Chesterfield County--roughly half of which is in the 7th--reported that Tea Party-aligned candidates had won several victories there, and at least one Cantor loyalist believed Tea Party supporters smelled "blood in the water." One local reporter told David Carr of The New York Times that many constituents believed Cantor was arrogant and unapproachable. Due to massive cutbacks, the race was severely underpolled by local media. Few Capitol Hill reporters were willing to go to Cantor's district for fear that they would be out of Washington if a major story broke.
Brat faced Democratic nominee Jack Trammell, another professor at Randolph-Macon, and James Carr, the Libertarian candidate, in the November general election. Brat was favored because of the 7th's significant Republican leaning (the district has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+10, showing it to be the most Republican district in eastern Virginia).
According to an article in The Boston Globe, Cantor announced plans to aid Brat by resigning from the United States Congress on August 18, so that a special election for the balance of Cantor's seventh term could be held on the same day as the general election for a full two-year term. Thus the winner, in a race in which Brat was favored, would take office with two months' more seniority over other first-term Republicans elected in the 2014 midterm elections and the ability to participate in the lame-duck session of Congress.
Brat defeated Trammell in that election, with 60.83% of the vote to Trammell's 36.95%. Carr finished third, with 2.09% of the vote.
A court-ordered redistricting significantly changed the 7th's configuration. It lost its share of Richmond to the neighboring 4th District; the 7th and its predecessors had included all or part of Richmond for over a century (it had been numbered as the 3rd District before 1993). It also lost Hanover County to the 1st District.
Brat defeated Democrat Eileen Bedell with 57.7% of the vote in the general election on November 8, 2016.
Brat ran for a third term in 2018 against Henrico native and former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger. The race was rated "Safe Republican" by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report until October 13, 2017, when Cook updated the rating to "Likely Republican." On February 8, 2018, the rating was changed to "Leans Republican," and on July 7, 2018, the race was rated a "Toss-up."
During an October 2018 debate, Brat characterized Spanberger as a disciple of Nancy Pelosi. Brat referred to Pelosi 25 times, according to the Washington Post', drawing laughs from the audience and the widely reported rejoinder, "Abigail Spanberger is my name."
Brat ultimately lost to Spanberger, 48.4% to 50.4%, due in part to a large swing in the district's shares of Henrico and Chesterfield counties, traditional Republican strongholds. While Brat carried five of the district's seven counties, Spanberger defeated him in Henrico and Chesterfield by a combined 30,600 votes, five times the overall margin of 6,600 votes.
On January 6, 2015, Brat was one of 25 House Republicans to vote against John Boehner's reelection as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Boehner, who needed at least 205 votes, was reelected with 216 votes. Though Brat supported Boehner earlier, he reversed his support after the House GOP leadership did not allow him to make an amendment to block a controversial executive order signed by President Barack Obama in a spending bill.
Brat faced heckling by 150 people at a "raucous" town hall meeting in the small town of Blackstone, Virginia, on February 21, 2017. Some questioned him on the border wall, health care, and President Trump's policies. Several of Brat's supporters left the meeting early. He was criticized for not meeting with his constituents because he claimed there were paid protesters among them. On January 28, at a meeting held at Hanover Tavern with "the GOP-friendly audience", he had lamented that, "[s]ince Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go. They come up -- 'When is your next town hall?' And believe me, it's not to give positive input." He also urged his fellow conservatives at the Tavern to write newspaper articles because "we're getting hammered." Brat considered running in Virginia's 2018 Senate election.
In November 2017 the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that a campaign staffer was using her personal Facebook profile to debate commenters on his Facebook posts. The woman did not identify herself as a paid campaign staffer. When asked about this, Brat said, "Her job is to clarify issues and put out my policy positions from my vantage point. It's not to argue with people." Brat had another run-in with social media on March 1, 2018, when it was discovered that his campaign Twitter account had "liked" several controversial tweets, including one that questioned whether one of the survivors of the Parkland school shooting, David Hogg, was a "crisis actor". After an outcry from concerned constituents, Brat's office issued a statement that attributed the likes to a campaign staffer who believed they were logged into their personal account. He also said that safeguards were being put in place to ensure it did not happen again.
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Brat asserts that culture matters in economic markets. He believes that the culture that produced Adam Smith was a Protestant culture and that fact and the ethics of that culture are important in understanding market efficiency. Brat advocated that Christians should more forcefully support free-market capitalism and behave more altruistically, in the manner of Jesus, so that "we would not need the government to backstop every action we take."
According to Kevin Roose in a New York Magazine article, Brat "sees free-market economics as being intricately linked to ethics and faith and he makes the case that Adam Smith's invisible hand theory, should be seen in the context of Christianity". Furthering the central theme of Max Weber's seminal book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Brat argues in his 2004 paper Economic Growth and Institutions: The Rise and Fall of the Protestant Ethic? that "institutions such as religion, democracy and government anti-diversion policies all significantly enhance a country's long-run economic performance," and concludes that "the religion variable may be the strongest ex ante, exogenous institutional variable in the literature."
In a paper titled Is Growth Exogenous? Taking Bernanke Seriously, Brat criticized Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, asserting that Bernanke's work on economic growth overlooks religious institutions--in particular Protestant--in a country's economic growth, and that while savings rates, population growth, and human capital accumulation help drive economic growth, the larger factor is "the Protestant religious establishment", which Bernanke ignores.
Brat has blamed the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany on the lack of "unified resistance", adding, "I have the sinking feeling that it could all happen again, quite easily." Brat believes that countries with Protestant pasts have economic advantages over countries that do not, and that Protestantism "provides an efficient set of property rights and encourages a modern set of economic incentives" that often lead to "positive economic performance". He believes in Christ as a transformer of culture, and that capitalism is the key to world transformation, which can be achieved when capitalism and Christianity merge; if people follow the gospel, and as a consequence behave more morally, he argues, then the markets will improve.
Zack Beauchamp from Vox Media has said that Brat believes that "most economists are motivated by philosophy rather than science: they're secretly utilitarians who believe that the goal of public policy is to produce the greatest good for the greatest number." Although Brat has said he does not identify as a Randian, he has acknowledged having been influenced by Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged and expressed appreciation of her case for human freedom and capitalism.
Conservative Review graded Brat's voting record an A with a Liberty Score of 100%. Brat was one of two Republican representatives to receive this highest possible grade out of 247 Republicans in the House of Representatives, along with Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Brat promised to vote against raising the debt ceiling for the first five years while he was in Congress, and attacked Cantor during the primary campaign for voting to end the federal government shutdown of 2013. Brat advocated an end to tax credits, deductions and loopholes, and called for a flatter and more efficient tax code. He opposed TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008, and said that, if elected, he would "vote against bills that benefit big business over small business". "I'm not against business. I'm against big business in bed with big government", he said.
Brat supported President Trump's trade policies, arguing that Americans benefitted from re-negotiating NAFTA and that while tariffs on China would cause short-term harms, they would ultimately lead to "zero tariffs."
Brat's decision to enter the Republican primary was driven largely by Cantor's role in weakening congressional ethics reform. "If you want to find out the smoking gun in this campaign, just go Google and type the STOCK Act and CNN and Eric Cantor", Brat said.
Brat opposed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). In March 2017 he said he opposed the initial version of the American Health Care Act, which was the GOP's replacement for Obamacare, and that he intended to vote against it in the House Budget Committee. On May 4, 2017, Brat voted to repeal Obamacare and pass the revised version of the American Health Care Act. He said the bill contained protections for preexisting conditions and would lead to lower prices; The Washington Post noted that the bill would have allowed insurers to charge higher premiums for individuals with preexisting conditions, and that an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that average health care premiums would increase as a result of the bill (more so for older Americans).
During his 2018 reelection campaign Brat falsely claimed that The Washington Post fact-checker had given "four Pinocchios" to his opponent Abigail Spanberger for claims she made about Brat's position on health care. The Washington Post fact-checker asked Brat to comment on his misrepresentation but did not receive a response.
Brat called for the National Security Agency to end bulk collection of phone records and stated his support for statutory protections for e-mail privacy. He argued that domestic intelligence activities have "spun out of control" and that "the NSA's indiscriminate collection of data on all Americans is a disturbing violation of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy." In an April 21, 2015, interview with radio talk show host Rusty Humphries, Brat claimed that the terrorist group ISIS had set up a base in Texas. "In our country it looks like we have an ISIS center in Texas now...You can't make up what a terrible problem this is." After the Texas Department of Public Safety responded that there was no substantiation for the claim, Brat's office said that he had really meant Mexico, not Texas, citing the conservative group Judicial Watch, which declined to provide any substantiation for its report.
Brat supported President Trump's 2017 executive order to temporarily curtail immigration from the Muslim-majority nations of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen until better screening methods are devised. Brat said that "the temporary halt on migration from seven countries will last only a few months until we have solid vetting procedures in place" and that "these seven countries with a temporary travel ban have been identified by both the Obama administration and our intelligence agencies as being the greatest threat to our national security because they have a history of training, harboring, and exporting terrorism."
In September 2017 Brat said that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provided temporary stay for unauthorized immigrants brought to the United as minors, allowed minors to "bring in their entire extended family once they reach a certain status" and could bring in up to 4 million additional immigrants. PolitiFact disputed Brat's figure.
In 2011 Brat criticized the political right for simultaneously advancing the pursuit of individual liberty while pushing laws restricting abortion, gay rights and gambling, and the political left for simultaneously supporting progressive liberal individualism while coercing others to "fund every social program under the sun". Brat's website said he supported "the life of every child, both born and unborn."
Brat criticized both major parties' approach to Medicare and Social Security, stating, "neither side of the aisle will talk about the most important issues because that is going to involve pain." He advocated "market-based reforms" to these programs, arguing individuals ought not to receive more from programs than they have paid into them. Brat has suggested age- and means-based reform to the eligibility of claimants for mandatory entitlements as a way to avoid insolvency.
Brat was a proponent of term limits for members of Congress. He pledged to serve a maximum of 12 years (six terms) in Congress.
|Republican||Eric Cantor (incumbent)||28,912||44.47%|
|Republican||Dave Brat (incumbent)||218,057||57.71%||-3.12%|
|Republican||Dave Brat (incumbent)||169,295||48.4|
|Democratic gain from Republican|
Brat was raised in a Presbyterian church and his wife is a Roman Catholic. Splitting their time between two churches, they are parishioners of St. Mary Catholic Church in Richmond. Brat also identifies as a Calvinist and lists affiliations with Christ Episcopal Church, Third Presbyterian, and Shady Grove Methodist.
Brat's victory underlined the deep schism in the party between its conservative base and its business wing.
Brat also got help from the more conservative wing of the Virginia Republican Party, which for years has been split between more establishment Republicans and tea party activists.
The GOP is expected to retain control of the House, but Brat's pounding of Cantor Tuesday ripped open the establishment-vs.-insurgent split that's plagued the party since the 2010 elections.