Correction: A previous version of this story stated no tea party group had endorsed Dave Brat. The Fredericksburg Virginia Patriots endorsed Brat at their April meeting.
Dave Brat, the Randolph-Macon economics professor who stole away Eric Cantor’s Republican Party nomination Tuesday, had not found much formal tea party support. But his volunteer appreciation event, held at an otherwise drab office building in Glen Allen, became an overnight headquarters for the party’s long-foretold revolution.
Out front, a pickup truck bearing a large Brat sign in its bed also memorialized the fallen at Benghazi. Inside, Hampton Roads Tea Party Chair Waverly Woods’ neon pink cowboy shouted almost as loudly as her analysis of how Cantor tried and failed to squeeze out fair competition in the race.
“We’ve had enough,” Woods said through Luzianne tea bags dangling from the hat. “You’re not going to shove us out; we are your boss. You’re going to either straighten up or ship out.”
Cantor, in his seventh term representing the 7th district, enjoyed what seemed an insurmountable advantage to all but the tea party faithful.
Cantor raised $5.5 million to Brat’s $200,000. He seemed poised to become the next speaker of the House, and appeared to be a linchpin in the ongoing immigration reform debate.
All of this, Brat supporters said, reeked of an arrogant politician out of touch with his constituents. Meanwhile, Chesterfield County Court Clerk candidate Justin Smith describes Brat as “a very gracious, humble individual.”
“I always voted for Cantor,” Goochland County Supervisor and Richmond Tea Party member Susan Lascolette said, “but it’s finally occurred to me that there’s other choices.”
Jamie Radtke, who ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 2012 under the tea party banner, said Cantor’s defeat is a lesson in political hubris.
“Anyone who lives in the district knows there’s been discontent growing,” she said of Cantor. “He’s more concerned about Fortune 500 companies than his own district.”
Brat emerged twice to address the crowd. The second time, after an interview with Fox News personality Sean Hannity, he called his victory a miracle.
“The country now is watching,” he told the crowd. “You made the difference.”