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Why David Brat is thinking about a run for Senate

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Posted at 11:28 AM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 11:28:31-04

WASHINGTON — He rose to prominence by pulling off one of the biggest upsets in political history and now Rep. David Brat, a Virginia Republican, is considering his next move.

In an interview on CNN’s RunningMate podcast, Brat said that he would consider a run for U.S. Senate if a seat in Virginia becomes open at the end of the current race for president.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reportedly considering Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine for the number two slot on her ticket. If she did and ultimately won the White House, which would set off a mad dash in Virginia to replace Kaine.

College economics professor and Republican candidate for Congress David Brat (C) addresses voters at the Henrico County Republican Party breakfast meeting April 26, 2014 in Glen Allen, Virginia. Brat went on to a surprise defeat of incumbent House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the June 10 primary. (Photo by Jay Paul/Getty Images)

College economics professor and Republican candidate for Congress David Brat (C) addresses voters at the Henrico County Republican Party breakfast meeting April 26, 2014 in Glen Allen, Virginia. Brat went on to a surprise defeat of incumbent House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the June 10 primary. (Photo by Jay Paul/Getty Images)

One of the reasons Kaine would be a potentially attractive candidate for Clinton is because his seat would be temporarily filled by an appointee from Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

However, a replacement to fill out the balance of the term would be selected by voters in a special election in 2017, a time when many well-known Virginia politicians will be engaged in statewide races. Virginia’s governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are all up for election the year after the race for president.

The candidate that wins the special election in 2017 would be immediately up for re-election in 2018.

Enter Brat, an unconventional politician who isn’t interested in climbing the leadership ladder in the House of Representatives and is not known as a prodigious fundraiser.

Brat is most known for toppling then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary despite being outspent by millions. His bootstrap campaign, fueled by conservative talk radio and grassroots tea party activists has often been cited as an early indicator of the rise of a candidate like Donald Trump. Brat has promised to only serve 12 years in Congress, but said a seat in the U.S. Senate is something that interests him.

Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) (L) reacts as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says it would be 'the end of his political career' if Brat does not support Trump for president during a rally against the Iran nuclear deal on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol September 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. Thousands of people gathered for the rally, organized by the Tea Party Patriots, which featured conservative pundits and politicians. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) (L) reacts as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says it would be ‘the end of his political career’ if Brat does not support Trump for president during a rally against the Iran nuclear deal on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol September 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. Thousands of people gathered for the rally, organized by the Tea Party Patriots, which featured conservative pundits and politicians. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“If that seat opens up in a special election or whatever, yeah I would consider it,” Brat said. “Congress, Senate the executive stuff, that is the stuff I love.”

Brat will likely not be alone in his interest among Republicans.

Because the special election would be held in an off year, the entire Virginia congressional delegation could mount a run for the Senate seat without having to take the companion risk of having to give up their seat in Congress. In addition to Brat, Northern Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, a rising Republican star, could be a candidate — as could Rep. Rob Wittman who is currently exploring a run for governor, but could change course if the opportunity arises.

Brat’s interest would be significant because of the national perch he’s established after beating Cantor. He is currently on a tour to promote the book he wrote about the experience called “American Underdog.”

He is still considered a favorite by many of the same factions that helped him with that primary, in part because of his membership in the House Freedom Caucus and his willingness to buck leadership. Not only did Brat not vote for then House Speaker John Boehner, he also refused to vote for the current House speaker, Paul Ryan.

“I lay out in my principles. And I didn’t vote for Paul Ryan because he wouldn’t put his pledge of principles down on paper, and other guys would. So that’s what I want to see,” Brat said.

Brat’s biggest disadvantage would be raising money. He has been able to cobble together donations to support his re-election campaign in his GOP heavy district, but running statewide in Virginia is a much different venture. In 2014, the last U.S. Senate race in Virginia, the candidates spent more than a combined $24 million.

As for the man Brat beat, they have yet to speak since that historic day in 2014.

“No, he’s up in New York or whatever so he is never around,” Brat said. “I didn’t really know him, it was never personal. I’ve said that a thousand times.”