- - Sunday, May 10, 2015

It has been one year since Dave Brat beat the political machine of then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia. Since that time, Mr. Brat has been a great conservative Congressman, acting on his promises instead of breaking them.

Political observers will note that Mr. Brat won his primary challenge against Cantor on June 8, 2014. That was not quite a year ago.

That is absolutely true, but the day Congressman Brat beat Eric Cantor was May 10, 2014. That victory is also a lesson every conservative should pay attention to.

When Mr. Brat began his challenge against Mr. Cantor, no one gave him a chance. Mr. Cantor was the sitting Majority Leader in the House of Representatives and a sitting Majority Leader had never been defeated in a primary. When Mr. Brat’s challenge began, Mr. Cantor’s war chest was measured in millions of dollars. Mr. Brat’s in hundreds.

Mr. Brat exploited a weakness in Mr. Cantor’s re-election campaign. Mr. Cantor had grown increasingly unpopular in his district. He had spent a lot of time away from his district, leaving concerns in the district to his political henchmen. Those people began to resort to increasingly heavy-handed tactics against tea party supporters who opposed Mr. Cantor.

The issue that doomed Mr. Cantor was amnesty.  Mr. Cantor supported amnesty while most of the Republicans in his district opposed it.

Because Mr. Brat was so financially strapped, he had no choice but to run an unconventional campaign. He tapped into the frustrations of the tea party movement and used an incredible social media effort to break through to people.

On May 10, 2014, Dave Brat beat the Cantor machine.

That was the day Virginia’s 7th District Republicans held their organizing convention. In Virginia, the district chairman holds much of the political power in a district. The district chairman at the time was long time Cantor ally Lynnwood Cobb.

The convention was stacked against the insurgents but they came anyway. After losing battles on a couple of preliminary matters, a vote was held to determine who the next district chairman would be. Fred Gruber, the tea party candidate won. Mr. Cantor’s hand picked district chairman was dispatched.

For Mr. Cantor, things went from bad to worse. Dave Brat spoke and electrified the crowd. Then Mr. Cantor got up to speak. He was booed off the stage.

Mr. Cantor’s fate was sealed. Mr. Cantor and allies rushed hundreds of thousands of dollars into the district, which includes both the Richmond and Washington D.C. Metro areas to try and save his seat.

It failed.

A few weeks later, Mr. Cantor resigned from Congress and Mr. Brat won a special election to fill the remaining months of Mr. Cantor’s term and won the election for the full term.

Since he has been in office, Mr. Brat has been a shining example of what a principled conservative can be. He has stood firm on his principles. He has been the kind of Congressman the tea party has long sought.

There is a good lesson for 2016 conservatives here. Conservative candidates should challenge establishment Republicans. Conservatives can win. Conservatives should follow their own playbook and not the playbook the Republican consultants want everyone to follow.

A lot of good conservative candidates lost to establishment Republicans in 2014. A number of good candidates won. Dave Brat won and that was a huge improvement for the United States Congress. The mission for 2016 is simple. Conservatives need to elect a few more Dave Brats to the House of Representatives.

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