- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2014

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss has left a bit of a mess in Virginia’s seventh congressional district, with Democrats weighing whether to invest in the race and allies of GOP nominee David Brat alleging that Mr. Cantor’s backers are pulling money away from his campaign.

Democrats, who had all but conceded the general election before nominating college professor Jack Trammell at the last minute, now must decide whether to spend money in a district that leans heavily Republican.

But Mr. Brat, in securing one of the biggest political upsets in recent memory, must now find a way to raise the money it could take to fend off Mr. Trammell.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cantor is in the process of winding down his prolific joint fundraising committee, which has raised more than $4.5 million over the past two years alone to boost local, state, and national GOP candidates and causes. And the wind-down could end up taking some money out of the race that some local Republicans had counted on — though the GOP still retains a clear edge heading into November.

“It would be a phenomenal upset for Republicans to lose that district,” said Richmond-based Democratic strategist Paul Goldman.

Mr. Trammell spent the early weeks of his candidacy pleading for attention, firing off fundraising emails that had to reassure donors there was a Democrat running in the district.

“With Eric Cantor out of the way and an extreme tea party candidate on the Republican ticket, we have a real chance to strike a huge blow and take this seat away from the Republicans,” he wrote to potential supporters. “Let’s not waste this opportunity, by letting them get a fundraising advantage.”

But aside from some chest-thumping on the night of Mr. Cantor’s loss, national Democrats have shown no outward signs they intend to compete seriously.

The Trammell campaign, the Democratic Party of Virginia and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not respond to requests for comment on the race.

On the GOP side, the intrigue is chiefly financial. The Cantor Victory Fund had steered more than $650,000 to the 7th District congressional committee in the last two years. Conservatives on the committee put forward a plan last month to use $280,000 of those funds to open up a half dozen field offices and build up grass-roots efforts in the district to support Mr. Brat and Republican Ed Gillespie, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner this year.

Instead, the committee voted to send $150,000 apiece to the Republican National Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee, along with $25,000 to a state Senate candidate in a competitive southwest Virginia race, among other items. The committee also doled out $5,000 apiece — the maximum amount under federal law — to Mr. Brat, Mr. Gillespie and the rest of the party’s congressional candidates in Virginia.

In a fundraising email, Mr. Brat had said he was “extremely disappointed” with the move.

“We know the grass roots’ face-to-face contact with voters is the best way to convey our message, and those funds could have been used to equip our grass-roots army to take our message to voters across the 7th District,” said Brat campaign spokesman Brian Gottstein.

Mr. Brat also shook up his campaign recently, hiring his third campaign manager. He also added Tim Edson, who most recently ran former GOP Rep. Allen West’s unsuccessful re-election bid in Florida in 2012, as a consultant.

Mr. Gottstein said he hoped national GOP campaign committees would send some of the Cantor money back to the district; supporters of the plan had backed it, in part, as a way to better steer funds and coordinate efforts boosting Mr. Brat and Mr. Gillespie.

Indeed, the RNC, for its part, pledged to run “a fully-funded victory operation in Virginia to benefit Ed Gillespie, Dave Brat, Barbara Comstock, Scott Rigell, and the rest of the Republican team.”

But a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee said while they are monitoring all Virginia races, they’ve already reserved nearly $3 million in television ads in the pricey Washington, D.C. media market to boost Mrs. Comstock in a competitive race in the 10th District.

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