James Carr is the Libertarian Party's nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia's Seventh Congressional District, where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was upset in a June 10 Republican primary by relatively unknown economics professor David Brat.
Carr came to Charlottesville on June 14, where in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of a meeting of the Libertarian Party of Virginia's State Central Committee held at the West Main restaurant, he answered questions about his potential and actual opponents.
The LPVA candidate for Congress was not surprised by Brat's defeat of Cantor in the GOP primary.
Not a surprise
“If you'd been talking to voters in the district, it really wasn't that much of a surprise,” Carr said. “As a matter of fact, my team and I had been planning for this outcome. We split our time equally between both outcomes – that Cantor wins, and that Brat does.”
Brat's unexpected victory was due to “a lot of factors,” he explained, and the story is one that “most of the media is getting incorrect.” The media have been “focusing on one issue and saying that that was the reason for the win. It really wasn't. It is the voters' dissatisfaction and the complete ineptitude in Washington right now.”
For voters in Virginia's seventh district, he said, “the idea of the permanent professional politician, living in Washington, being disconnected from those whom they're supposed to represent, no longer listening to those that they represent, no longer holding town hall meetings” is unpalatable.
Instead, they want someone who connects with voters. “They clearly didn't have that with Mr. Cantor,” Carr asserted, and they wanted “to get rid of him.”
The Libertarian candidate said that “many people that I've talked to over the last several months, when I've been out knocking on doors, going to farmers' markets, setting up events at brew fests” told him that they were going to vote in the Republican primary just to get Cantor out of the race, and then wait until the general election campaign to assess the other candidates.
Many of those voters, he said, “are very open to the Libertarian platform.”
'Points of frustration'
While Carr has not yet met his new opponent, David Brat, he has done some research on the Randolph-Macon faculty member.
“I've tried to learn as much about David Brat as I could from his web site,” which outlines some of his policy positions “but most of it is at a high level and you're going to have to interpret quite a bit.”
In talking with voters about Brat, he said, “I find that to be one of their points of frustration” although they were “very clear” they would “rather vote for someone who's not Cantor in the primary and then find out what the issues are later.”
While the news media had focused on Brat's position on immigration, Carr explained, “that wasn't as important to most of the people that I've talked to, among the thousands of people who we had interactions with over the past several months.”
Carr also believes that Brat has been misidentified as a libertarian, in part “because his campaign manager is a libertarian.”
From Carr's perspective, “Dave Brat can be considered more of a slightly-libertarian-leaning Republican on some issues but on many not. On the social issues, he's pretty well Republican.”
“I don't think anyone who looks into his web site or listens to some of his speeches would argue that Dave Brat is a libertarian. Is he more libertarian than, say, Cantor? Probably. But I would not make the mistake of calling Dave Brat a libertarian.”
Trammell 'a question mark'
The Democratic party's nominee, Randolph-Macon sociologist Jack Trammell, remains something of a mystery to Carr, who has not yet “had a chance to meet him” or find “anything other than some of his academic work that gives me any indication of his stances on the issues.
Trammell, he said, has not yet posted a campaign web site, “so we're at a point where that Mr. Trammell's kind of a question mark. He came into the race very late. We didn't have any indication that that was going to happen. We're now trying to figure out, who is this person?"
Carr's task now is to show how his views are different from both Brat's and Trammell's.
Unless Jack Trammell is “actually a libertarian running as a Democrat, we're going to have some very different stances in certain areas. I'd like to be able to address that to the voters very clearly, to give them an accurate picture.”
Carr expressed confidence, based upon what he's seen about David Brat and Jack Trammell, “that this is going to be a very new race for the voters,” who are going to receive “positive messages. They're not going to have negative campaigning from here to November.”
Although Carr had turned in well over the minimum 1,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot by the filing deadline of June 10, as this article went to press, the State Board of Elections had not yet certified his ballot status for November.
The complete one-on-one interview with James Carr can be viewed on YouTube.