RICHMOND, Va. — Dave Brat, the insurgent GOP candidate who took down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, launched his general election campaign Tuesday with the beginnings of a campaign message of economic prosperity for Virginians. He’s hired a spokesman experienced in Virginia state politics. But office equipment? Working on it.
“It’s just been a roller coaster,” said Brat’s new campaign spokesman, Brian Gottstein. “We’re looking for phones; we’re looking for computers.”
A week after he beat Cantor by 11 percentage points in Tuesday’s GOP primary, Brat gave a brief prepared statement to reporters before attending a Rotary Club breakfast.
“Too many Virginians are still suffering without jobs, suffering under the rising cost of Obamacare, and the government’s attempts to spend our way into prosperity have proven to be a dismal failure over the last few years,” he said, declining to take questions. The breakfast was closed to reporters.
It was the first glimmer of a general election message from a candidate who was a virtual unknown 10 days ago and still is struggling to stand up a campaign for the House seat representing the conservative Richmond-area suburbs. Brat’s win is not expected to change the likelihood that Republicans will retain control of the House in the November elections. But it was touted by tea party officials as a long-awaited victory against the Washington establishment.
For his part, Brat, a Randolph-Macon College professor, has not publicly embraced the tea party label. He faces Democrat Jack Trammel, who teaches at the same school, in November.
Brat’s campaign has scheduled a news conference for Thursday at his campaign headquarters. Brat will not answer questions at the news conference, according to his campaign.
Gottstein, who worked for former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, said about 15 paid and volunteer aides are working on the Brat campaign as it transitions to general election mode. Brat had only two paid staffers during the primary. Gottstein said Brat planned to spend the rest of Tuesday meeting with campaign staff to map out their plan for the November contest.
The spokesman reported “steady” fundraising since Tuesday’s primary, but did not give an exact figure.
Brat raised only about $200,000 during the primary, compared with about $5 million raised by Cantor.
Gottstein said the campaign has been fielding numerous requests from national media but said focused on accommodating local media outlets.
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