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Dave Brat

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Dave Brat
Dave Brat official congressional photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 7th district
Assumed office
November 4, 2014
Preceded by Eric Cantor
Personal details
Born David Alan Brat
(1964-07-27) July 27, 1964 (age 54)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Laura Sonderman
Children 2
Education Hope College (BA)
Princeton Theological
American University (PhD)
Website House website

David Alan Brat (born July 27, 1964) is an American economist and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Virginia's 7th congressional district since 2014. Prior to his election to Congress, Brat was a professor at Randolph–Macon College. A member of the Republican Party, Brat is aligned with the Tea Party movement.[1]

Brat defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the district's 2014 Republican primary on June 10, 2014.[2] 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, and is considered one of the biggest upsets in congressional history.[3] He defeated Democratic nominee Jack Trammell on November 4, 2014.

Early life and education

David Alan Brat was born in Detroit, Michigan[4] on July 27, 1964.[5][6] Brat's father, Paul, was a Doctor of Internal Medicine; his mother, Nancy, was employed as a social worker in Alma, Michigan, where he was raised.[7][7][8][9] His family moved from Alma to Minnesota when David, the oldest of three boys, was in junior high.[7] Brat graduated from Park Center Senior High School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.[7]

Brat attended Hope College in Michigan and received a B.A. in Business Administration in 1986; he also graduated with a Master's Degree in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1990 and earned a Ph.D. in economics from American University in 1995.[10]

Academic career

After working for Arthur Andersen and as a consultant for the World Bank, Brat joined the faculty of Randolph–Macon College in 1996,[10] where he served as chairman of the department of economics, and taught courses including "Britain in the International Economy", "International Economic Development", and "Business Ethics".[11]

From 2010 to 2012 Brat headed Randolph-Macon's BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism program, one of sixty 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.[12][13][14][15]

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.[15]

Special legislative assistant

From 2005 to 2011, Brat worked as a special legislative assistant to Virginia state senator Walter Stosch in the area of higher education.[10] 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.[16]


2011 Virginia House of Delegates campaign

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 in the November 2011 general election.[17]

2014 U.S. House campaign

Republican primary

Dave Brat speaking at an event in February 2016.

Brat ran against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for the Republican nomination for Virginia's 7th congressional district and defeated Cantor by a 12-point margin.[18] 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.[19][20] Brat's primary campaign was managed by 23-year-old Zachary Werrell.[21] An analysis of campaign filings conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics concluded that Brat did not receive any donations from political action committees, noting "it's almost impossible to profile Brat's typical donor, because he had so few."[22] Brat's win was notable,[23][24][25] as it was the first time a sitting House Majority Leader was defeated in his primary race since the position was created in 1899.[26]

Compared with Cantor, described as aloof, Brat was characterized as knowing how to work a crowd.[27] He ran an anti-establishment campaign criticizing Cantor's position on illegal immigration,[28] government bailouts and budget deals while frequently invoking God and the 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.[29]

Brat ran well to Cantor's right, complaining that Cantor had a "crony-capitalist mentality", putting the interests of the corporate sector ahead of small businesses.[30] Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham endorsed Brat's candidacy and hosted a rally with him in a Richmond suburb.[2] Brat was also supported by radio talk show host Mark Levin[31] and Ann Coulter.[32] Chris Peace, a state legislator who collaborated with Brat on state budget issues at Randolph-Macon College, stated that Brat was inspired to run for Congress because of "His passion for the structure of government and belief in free markets."[33]

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.[34][35][36] Some libertarian oriented groups, such as the Virginia Liberty Party, backed Brat.[37]

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.[23] Brat has not self-identified with the Tea Party movement.[38] 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".[39] 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."[40]

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.[41] 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.[42] 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."[43] One local reporter told David Carr of The New York Times that many constituents believed Cantor was arrogant and unapproachable. However, 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 in case a major story broke.[41]

General election

Brat faced Democratic nominee Jack Trammell, another professor at Randolph-Macon, and James Carr, the Libertarian candidate, in the November general election.[44] 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).[45]

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 could be held on the same day as the general election. Thus the winner, in a race in which Brat was favored, would take office with the perquisite of seniority over other first-term Republicans elected in the 2014 midterm elections and with the ability to participate in the lame-duck session of Congress.[46]

Brat defeated Trammell in that election, with 60.83% of the vote to Trammell's 36.95%. Libertarian candidate James Carr finished third, with 2.09% of the vote.[47]

2016 U.S. House campaign

Brat defeated Democrat Eileen Bedell with 57.7% of the vote in the general election held on November 8, 2016.

2018 U.S. House campaign

Up until October 13, 2017, the district was rated "Safe Republican" by the non-partisan Cook Political Report. On October 13, 2017, Cook updated the race rating to "Likely Republican." On February 8, 2018, the race rating was changed to "Leans Republican," and on July 7, 2018, the race was rated a "Toss-up." Brat's Democratic opponent is Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who grew up in the district.[48]

During an October 2018 debate, Brat characterized his opponent, Spanberger, as a disciple of Nancy Pelosi. Brat referred so often to Pelosi that it started to draw laughs. According to the Washington Post, a conservative estimate is that he referred to Pelosi 25 times.[49][50]

U.S. House of Representatives

Dave Brat was sworn in on November 12, 2014 to finish Eric Cantor's term.[51]

On January 6, 2015, Brat was one of twenty-five House Republicans to vote against John Boehner's re-election as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Boehner, who needed at least 205 votes, was re-elected with 216 votes.[52] 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.[53]

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 Brat on the border wall, health care, and President Trump’s policies.[54] Several of Brat's supporters left the meeting early.[54] Brat 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."[55] He also urged his fellow conservatives at the Tavern, "to write newspaper articles because "we’re getting hammered."[56] Brat had considered running in Virginia's 2018 Senate election.[57] He is a member of the Freedom Caucus.[58]

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.[59] The woman did not identify herself as a paid campaign staffer.[59] 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."[59] 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".[60] After an outcry from concerned constituents, Brat's office issued a statement that attributed the likes to a campaign staffer when they believed they were logged onto their personal account. He also stated that safeguards were being put in place to ensure it did not happen again.[61]

Committee assignments

Economic views

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.[62][63] 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."[64]

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".[65] 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."[66]

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.[67]

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."[64] 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".[65] 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.[68]

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."[69] Although Brat has stated he does not identify as a Randian, he has acknowledged having been influenced by Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged and has expressed appreciation of Ayn Rand's case for human freedom and capitalism.[70]

Political positions

Conservative Review has graded Brat's voting record an A with a Liberty Score of 100%. Brat is 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.[71]


Brat has promised to vote against raising the debt ceiling for the first five years he is in Congress,[72] and he attacked Cantor during the primary campaign for voting to end the federal government shutdown of 2013.[72] Brat advocates for an end to tax credits, deductions and loopholes, and calls for a more flat and efficient tax code.[73] Brat has indicated he opposed TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008, and has stated that, if elected, he would "vote against bills that benefit big business over small business".[74] He has stated: "I'm not against business. I'm against big business in bed with big government."[75]

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."[49]


Brat opposes federally driven education policies such as the Common Core curriculum and No Child Left Behind.[76]

Ethics reform

His decision to enter the Republican primary was driven largely by Cantor's role in weakening congressional ethics reform. Brat stated: "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."[75]


Brat opposes the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).[77] In March 2017, Brat said that he opposed the initial version of the American Health Care Act, which was the GOP's replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and that he intended to vote against it in the House Budget Committee.[78] On May 4, 2017, Brat voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and pass the revised version of the American Health Care Act.[79][80] Brat said that the bill would contain protections for preexisting conditions and 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).[49]

During his 2018 re-election 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.[81]

Foreign policy and defense

Brat has called for the National Security Agency to end bulk collection of phone records and has stated his support for statutory protections for e-mail privacy. He has argued that domestic intelligence activities have "spun out of control"[82] and that "the NSA's indiscriminate collection of data on all Americans is a disturbing violation of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy."[83] In an April 21, 2015, interview with radio talk show host Rusty Humphries, Brat claimed that the terrorist group ISIS has 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 to say Mexico, not Texas, citing the conservative group Judicial Watch, which declined to provide any substantiation for its report.[84]


Brat supported President Donald 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 stated 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."[85]

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, would allow the minors to "bring in their entire extended family once they reach a certain status," and could up to 4 million additional immigrants.[86] PolitiFact disputed Brat's 4 million figure.[86]

Social issues

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".[64] Brat's website states that he supports "the life of every child, both born and unborn."[87]

Social Security and Medicare

Brat has 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."[88] Brat advocates "market-based reforms" to these programs,[89] arguing individuals ought not to receive more from programs than they have paid into them.[90] Brat has suggested age- and means-based reform to the eligibility of claimants for mandatory entitlements as a means to avoid insolvency.[91]

Term limits

Brat is a proponent of term limits for members of Congress. He has pledged to serve a maximum of 12 years (six terms) in Congress.[74]

Electoral history

Virginia's 7th congressional district Republican primary, 2014[92]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Dave Brat 36,105 55.53%
Republican Eric Cantor (incumbent) 28,912 44.47%
Total votes 65,017 100%
Virginia's 7th congressional district election, 2014[93]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Dave Brat 148,026 60.83%
Democratic Jack Trammell 89,914 36.95%
Libertarian James Carr 5,086 2.09%
Write-in 325 0.13%
Total votes 243,351 100%
Republican hold
Virginia's 7th congressional district election, 2016[94]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Dave Brat (incumbent) 218,057 57.71% -3.12%
Democratic Eileen Bedell 160,159 42.24% +5.29%
Write-in 947 0.25% +0.12%
Total votes 379,163 100.00% +135,812
Republican hold Swing N/A


  • God and Advanced Mammon – Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism? (2011)[95]
  • Brat, David A.; Kenneth Sands; Evan Dungan (2009). "NAEP Scores, Human Capital, and State Growth". Virginia Economic Journal. 14: 21–43.
  • Park, Walter G.; David A. Brat (1995). "A Global Kuznets Curve?". Kyklos. 48 (1): 105. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6435.1995.tb02317.x.
  • "All Democracies Created Equal? 195 Years Might Matter" (PDF). Randolf-Macon College. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  • Brat, David (2004). "Economic Growth and Institutions: The Rise and Fall of the Protestant Ethic?". Virginia Economic Journal. 9: 33–40.
  • An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand [96]
  • Park, Walter G; Brat, David A (Summer 1996). "Cross-Country R&D and Growth: Variations on a Theme of Mankiw-Romer-Weil" (PDF). Eastern Economic Journal. 22 (3): 345–54. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  • "American Underdog: Proof That Principles Matter". Center Street. Retrieved June 27, 2016. (2016)[97]

Personal life

Brat was raised in a Presbyterian church and his wife, Laura, is a Roman Catholic.[7] Splitting their time between two churches,[7] they are parishioners of St. Mary Catholic Church in Richmond.[98] Brat also identifies himself as a Calvinist and lists affiliations with Christ Episcopal Church, Third Presbyterian, and Shady Grove Methodist.[68]

Brat moved to Virginia in 1996 with his wife, Laura.[99] They live in Glen Allen, a suburb of Richmond.[100] They have two children.[101]

Brat's brother Dan is a medical doctor specializing in neuropathology. He also serves as vice-chairman of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Emory University. His youngest brother, Jim, is a Los Angeles-based real estate attorney.[7][102]


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External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Eric Cantor
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 7th congressional district

Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Alma Adams
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Donald Norcross
Retrieved from ""
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