Republican incumbent Dave Brat saw off a challenge from Democrat Eileen Bedell last Tuesday to keep his seat serving Virginia’s 7th congressional district.
Brat won the heavily Republican district with 58 percent of the vote, compared to Bedell’s 42. The race was called for Brat a little bit more than two hours after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
As Brat’s victory appeared a foregone conclusion Tuesday evening, supporters, friends and family who had gathered at Keagan’s Irish Pub in Brat’s hometown of Glen Allen breathed a sigh of relief and the attention quickly shifted to the national election and Richmond’s mayoral election.
Brat turned heads in Republican circles when he upset former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary to go on to win his seat in Congress. However a court-mandated redistricting earlier this year relinquished Hanover and New Kent counties – key bases of Brat’s support – to the 1st District, adding Powhatan, Amelia and Nottoway counties from the 4th District.
Brat dismissed concerns that this would have a meaningful impact on the race, saying redistricting “may have dinged (him) a point or two,” but he said he was confident of victory when he visited the new counties and found out they’re full of “strong, rural Republicans.”
Big poll margins for Bedell in North Chesterfield and central Henrico couldn’t compensate for Brat’s dominance in the rest of the district. With all precincts reporting, Brat and Bedell secured roughly 58 and 42 percent of the votes, respectively.
Volunteer Richard Roberts looked on as Brat delivered his victory remarks. Roberts said he’s been with the campaign since Brat was just an obscure economics professor at Randolph-Macon hoping to unseat one of the Republican party’s rising stars.
“Unlike other politicians, Dave has kept his word,” Roberts said.
He highlighted Brat’s consistent calls for action on balancing the national budget and imposing term limits, and that Brat retains an active presence in the district despite his new Washington job.
“And he’s no friend of Paul Ryan,” Roberts said. “Dave’s kept his word and that’s the important thing for the people of the 7th District.”
Roberts said the race against Bedell was never going to be competitive.
“No one is buying Dave Brat, and that’s the important thing,” Roberts said.
Jim Thomma, Contributing Writer