By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - David Brat, who scored a huge political upset with his primary election defeat of House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor, is a conservative Tea Party Republican and a college professor who has written about the role of religion in economic growth.
He is also a fan of the pro-capitalist novelist Ayn Rand. Here are some facts about Brat:
ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS PROFESSOR WITH DIVINITY DEGREE
Brat, 49, is an economics professor at 1,300-student Randolph-Macon College outside Richmond, Virginia. He describes himself as a budget expert on his campaign website, saying he "presents a major problem for liberals who try to continue increased government spending by discrediting conservatives." In May, Brat reportedly missed planned meetings with national conservative leaders because he had to prepare for final exams. He graduated from Hope College in Michigan in 1986 with a degree in business administration, received a Master's in divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD in economics from American University.
FAN OF AYN RAND
Brat teaches a class on Rand's thinking underwritten by Rand admirer and former banking chief executive John Allison, who is promoting the class to counter what he sees as anti-capitalist thinking at U.S. institutions. The program, known as "The Moral Foundations of Capitalism," is intended to further the ideas Rand outlined in her novel, "Atlas Shrugged." Brat has reportedly said he is not a "Randian" but appreciates the case she makes for freedom and free markets.
ARGUED RELIGION PLAYS ROLE IN ECONOMIC GROWTH RATES
Brat has in published work found fault with a 2001 paper by Ben Bernanke, who would later become chairman of the Federal Reserve, that said long-term growth was mostly determined by variables such as saving rates, population growth and levels of education. Brat said that Bernanke had overlooked the role of Protestantism, which he said created conditions conducive to strong economic performance.
OPPONENT OF IMMIGRATION REFORM
In campaign ads, Brat accused the majority leader of "giving citizenship papers to illegal immigrants." The immigration issue helped Brat win endorsements from notable conservatives such as Ann Coulter, who called Cantor "amnesty-addled" in a column for right-wing news site Townhall.com. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham also campaigned for Brat in Virginia and slammed Cantor on immigration.
FACE-OFF AGAINST FELLOW FACULTY MEMBER
Brat's Democratic challenger in the November election will be Jack Trammell, a Randolph-Macon assistant professor and director of disability support services who has written books about the slave trade and his family's life on a small farm in rural Virginia.
WAS CRITICIZED BY CANTOR FOR BEING A LIBERAL
Cantor initially dismissed Brat as "a liberal economics professor" who was pretending to be a conservative. Cantor's attack was widely reported, bringing a bonanza of publicity to Brat.
(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Caren Bohan and Peter Cooney)