By Associated Press - Thursday, October 18, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - President Donald Trump has endorsed Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Brat as the two-term congressman faces a strong challenge from a Democratic opponent.

Brat is locked in a tight race with Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who is waging an aggressive campaign to unseat Brat in a traditionally Republican congressional district.

Brat, a former economics professor, stunned the political establishment in 2014 when he scored a surprising win over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the primary and went on to win the 7th District seat.

In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump called Brat one of the “hardest working” and “smartest” people in Washington.

Trump also tweeted that Brat is “strong on the Border, Crime, the Military, our Vets and the 2nd Amendment.”

“Dave has my Total Endorsement!”

In a statement, Brat thanked Trump for his support and praised the administration for the Republican-passed tax cuts and other steps he said have led to a “strong economy for Virginia.”

Brat was endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence earlier this month.

Spanberger has received some high-profile endorsements of her own, including from former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Spanberger’s spokesman, Justin Jones, downplayed Trump’s endorsement, saying Brat “will do anything to make voters think this isn’t a race between him and Abigail Spanberger.”

“Donald Trump is no more on the ballot in this district than some other Democrat is - no matter how much Congressman Brat repeats himself to try to make it so,” Jones said.

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