Dave Brat may have won his biggest battle long before he was sworn in as the new congressman in Virginia’s 7th District. His earth-shaking GOP primary defeat of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last year went down in the annals of American political history and is likely to define him for a long time.
When he began his first full term in January, Brat had already made a name for himself without a single legislative accomplishment. Some in Washington call him the "Dragon Slayer" when they spot him treading along the hallways of the Capitol, flashing his trademark smile.
While not immune to flattery, Brat is ready to move beyond being defined by his image as a courageous conqueror.
"All names are irrelevant to me. I ran as an economist - $18 trillion in (national) debt, $127 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and nothing has changed," the former economics professor at Randolph-Macon College said.
"The 7th District was awake and more attuned to what was going on in the country as a whole. I think my election was kind of the front wave of what’s going on now across the country."
Keeping his promise to his base - mostly conservative tea party supporters fed up with the GOP establishment - Brat didn't waste any time. One of his first notable actions was joining a group of Republicans that tried to vote out then-House Speaker John Boehner, so Brat quickly established himself as one not afraid to swim against the stream.
Brat has continued to push for a balanced budget amendment and called for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He has also decried President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration as unconstitutional amnesty. And there is little doubt that Brat will continue to shake things up.
"They can say I am a troublemaker - well, yeah, I am a troublemaker because I am not going along with the status quo that got us into the ditch," he said.
As a supporter of term limits, he has vowed to step aside when his 12-year pledge is up, not ruling out that he might go back to his old job teaching economics.
"That would be a treat. I mean, this job is rough," Brat said.
IN HIS WORDS
A small moment in life with a big impact
I had a successful business career going with Arthur Andersen, and I heard that small voice inside and felt the call to make the move to Princeton Seminary. That small decision to take the road less traveled has made all the difference.
Something that might surprise others
My first passion was music. I grew up playing the guitar. Then I transitioned to the trumpet, where I played in a jazz band, the Minnesota Youth Symphony and the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony.
"Raiders of the Lost Ark," because it has all of my favorite themes: religion (Ark of the Covenant), history, academia, adventure, good vs. evil - and of course Spielberg’s genius. I also love the "Star Wars" series, especially when a small team of rebels was able to follow the Force and take out the Death Star.
Alternate profession or course of study
Prior to going into economics, I planned on going into systematic theology. If the world were a much simpler and better place, I would love to be a tennis pro. But that’s on hold for now.
My role model was actually a host of teachers and professors, throughout my development, who encouraged me to excel intellectually as well as in sports and the arts. They lead me through college, seminary and economics so that I might one day be able to achieve a dream. Hats off not only to my role models but all of the educators who lead the next generation to their dreams.
Something you’d like to do
Go to heaven.
I am most proud of raising two super kids with my wife, Laura. I know for a fact that they both try to lead at school by being kind to the next person they meet. I have gotten feedback from many friends on that score. That makes me proud. That is an accomplishment.
Favorite thing about Richmond region
It brings together all the best of a big city, suburban areas and rural areas, all within a few miles. We have sports, malls, beautiful wildlife, fishing, as well as great school systems and a thriving business environment. Finally, the Richmond area is home to our General Assembly, which is of course associated with the rich history of our commonwealth.
Position: 7th District congressman
Born/hometown: July 27, 1964; Detroit
College: Hope College (bachelor's degree), Princeton Theological Seminary (master's in divinity), American University (doctorate)
Family: wife, two children