The defeat of the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor–reportedly the first time someone holding that office has been ousted in a party primary–has Washington, D.C., in a state of shock. (Cantor, who had been projected as a future successor to House Speaker John Boehner, has announced that he is resigning his post.) His unheralded opponent, David Brat, was thought to have no chance, but he was supported by grass roots conservatives identified with the Tea Party movement, and he won the election by a wide margin.
Some Democrats are gleeful that, by electing an inexperienced Tea Party candidate, that a once safe seat for the Republicans in the Virginia district is now in play for them. The problem is, the Democrats were expecting an impossible race against Cantor, so their candidate is equally unheralded and inexperienced. Jack Trammell was the only one who filed for the election and all of his paperwork isn’t even in.
What I love about this election is that both candidates are faculty members of the sort of small liberal arts college that I have worked in most of my life. They work at Randolph-Macon College, a Methodist-related school with an enrollment of around 1,200. The Republican is an economics professor. The Democrat is a sociology professor who writes novels. These are my people! Talk about academic politics! By the way, the culture and ethos of a small teaching college like this is very different from that of a large research university. The effect of such a contest on a close-knit academic community like this will be interesting to follow. I suspect it will actually be, well, collegial. Either candidate would probably make for a more interesting Congressman than the typical politician.
He’s a college professor and father of seven who’s been working on a vampire novel. And suddenly he’s given Democrats hope — faint hope — of taking the seat that once belonged to Eric Cantor.Jack Trammell thought he would be challenging the House majority leader in November’s general election for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. But after Cantor’s upset loss in the GOP primary on Tuesday night, Trammell will instead face fellow political novice Dave Brat, who also happens to teach at Randolph-Macon College.
Little is known about Trammell’s policy views or his campaign operation. A spokeswoman for the Federal Election Commission said the agency had received no records from his campaign, meaning that he has either raised or spent less than $5,000 or that his paperwork is still in the mail.
Robert Dempsey, executive director of the Virginia Democratic Party, said Trammell has not yet raised any money and is still putting his campaign staff together. Dempsey also admitted he knew little about the candidate.
“He’s been a candidate only for a couple of days,” Dempsey said. “We aren’t quite there yet. We have yet to have a substantive talk. But I know Jack has been making calls to leaders in the area.” . . .
Trammell is an assistant professor of sociology and director of disability services at Randolph-Macon, a small liberal arts school near Richmond. He won the Democratic nomination over a conference call last weekend after no other Democrats were willing to take on Cantor, the presumed GOP nominee.
He lives on a small farm in Mineral, Virginia, with his wife and children, according to his campaign website, which is limited to one page. Trammell worked on Bill Clinton’s campaign in Kentucky and for Michael Dukakis’ unsuccessful 1988 White House bid.
According to a biography on Amazon.com, he was born in Berea, Kentucky, and “is descended from generations of Appalachian farmers who migrated from Normandy through England and Virginia.” He has degrees from Grove City College and Virginia Commonwealth University, where he earned his Ph.D.
He has written a range of books, including the novel “Sarah’s Last Secret” and a murder mystery titled “Gray.” He also has a vampire novel in the works, according to his Amazon page.
His more academic works include “The Richmond Slave Trade: The Economic Backbone of the Old Dominion” and “Conversations in History: Historical Events & the People Who Starred in Them.” He also has served as a regular contributor to The Washington Times, writing a military history column, according to his Amazon bio.
Democrats have been gleeful over Cantor’s loss to Brat, a conservative grass-roots challenger, and there have been some suggestions of a potential opening for a more moderate candidate to win in the general election.
But this is a district that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won with 57 percent of the vote in 2012. And although the race is now getting tons of attention, national Democrats are still reluctant to put resources behind a first-time candidate.