Ah, the harsh light of national media coverage. Republican David Brat’s surprise victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor thrust both Brat and his Democratic opponent, Jack Trammell, into a world of scrutiny to which neither had been exposed.
Brat was such a long shot hardly anyone spent time digging up dirt. Cantor’s campaign didn’t seem to even try, instead attacking the Randolph-Macon College economics professor as a “liberal college professor” -- an assertion that’s accurate only if you consider the tea party to be liberal.
Given the Republican-heavy nature of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District and that he was nominated at the last minute, Trammell has merited even less scrutiny. When Brat won, Trammell didn’t even have a website set up.
So how are they doing?
The withering began immediately. First, Brat struggled to handle policy questions during one of his first national interviews, punting when asked on MSNBC for his views on the minimum wage and struggling to take a precise stand on other policy issues. “I thought we were just going to talk about the celebratory aspect,” Brat told host Chuck Todd.
Things went downhill from there. The Wall Street Journal pounced on Brat’s 2011 assertion that Hitler’s rise “could happen again, quite easily.” The Journal quoted his paper in the publication “Interpretation: A journal of Bible and Theology.” Brat’s essay, “God and Advanced Mammon -- Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism,” essentially argues that unless Christianity and capitalism combine forces, a second Hitler is coming.
Mother Jones poured through Brat’s YouTube videos -- many of which were subsequently removed from view -- collecting some of his more extreme statements. The magazine highlighted Brat’s reasoning behind his call for massive cuts to education funding: “My hero Socrates trained in Plato on a rock. How much did that cost? So the greatest minds in history became the greatest minds in history without spending a lot of money.”
Then there’s Brat’s 23-year-old campaign manager, Zachary Werrell, who deleted his Facebook profile the night his candidate won. But not before Yahoo News captured some of the more controversial rants that Werrell shared. Among other things, he compared George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin to abortion and suggested that localities should be able to secede from their state if they feel “un/underrepresented” in government.
Trammell’s campaign is getting scrutinized too, though the candidate comes off looking more offbeat than extreme. Star Trek! Monsters! Romance! In addition to his day job teaching sociology -- yes, also at Randolph-Macon -- Trammell is a prolific writer of historical and popular works. As a piece in Politico explores, he published a romance novel in 2001 titled “Sarah’s Last Secret.”
Politico shared 10 choice excerpts, including this gem: “A few minutes later, we desperately wanted to make love, even in the choral foyer behind the alter [sic] as we impatiently waited for the photography session to begin, but there were simply too many people around, and we soon had to attend the reception.”
The days of digging have just begun. A quick Google search turns up an unreported interview, a conversation with Trammell published this month in The Arts and Entertainment Magazine & The Eerie Digest -- “The magazine that’s seen around the world.” In it, Trammell mentions his work with students with disabilities, the death threats he received after writing an article about Richmond’s slave trade and his passion for creative writing.
“I love history and I love higher education and scholarly research and writing. But, in my heart, I still want to write the next great vampire novel. …”