It wasn’t called a victory party to begin with – My assignment is to cover Dave Brat’s “volunteer appreciation party,” near Innsbrook. No Brat signs are on the office park building, where Brat’s team rented out the atrium.
With the night's outcome still uncertain, the building’s owner asks us not to mention the name of the property on live TV.
Our team arrives just after 7pm, within minutes of the polls closing. There are just a few dozen people, quietly listening to the radio as results come in.
This is when the Brat Pack never looks back.
I check my phone at 7:26pm – Dave Brat has nearly 58 percent of the vote, 94 of 243 precincts reporting. Brat leads by more than 4,000 votes.
The small gathering erupts. “Is this just a temporary thing?” whispers a long-time friend. “We don’t want to get carried away, and see this fade away.”
The lead never fades. The engine only revs, with the anticipation palpable.
“Cantor forgot who sent him to the dance,” says one of Brat’s Louisa volunteers. “When you forget, we send you home.”
It’s 7:32pm. “Dude, this could happen,” is the text I see from Ryan Nobles. I’m responding to Ryan, when the MC takes the microphone, and says Brat’s lead is up by nearly 6,000 votes.
It’s 8:00pm, and Brat is in the building. It’s a rock star entrance into the now packed atrium. Brat stops to hug and snap selfies with stunned supporters.
“Can you believe it?” Brat exclaims. “Oh my God is right."
The script is thrown out. What was once planned as Brat quietly coming into the building, meeting with his family in an office, and perhaps planning on how to say, “we fought the good fight,” is part of another frame of thinking, now gone.
The AP alerts buzz on our phones, “Brat defeats Cantor.” It’s not confirmed by the networks yet. Within five minutes, in a surreal moment for our team, the MC takes the mic and says “the wait is over, NBC12 has called the election for Dave Brat.”
The cheer echoes out to the sleepy street in Henrico County, triggering not another Virginia earthquake, but the Brat Pack making history.
Stunned, Brat tells fans close by that he’s the luckiest guy alive. Friends across the room lift Brat’s 15-year-old son into the air.
But in the middle of all of this, there’s no word from the Cantor camp. We asked when would we hear Brat’s victory speech?
“We’re waiting for the concession call,” says a Brat staffer. “It hasn’t happened yet."
The wait grows longer. Finally before 9pm, we find out about Cantor’s concession, when we see it unfold live on MSNBC. And with that, Brat is ready to address the crowd.
“This, is a miracle from God,” Brat begins. “It’s not about Dave Brat winning tonight. It’s about returning the country to constitutional principles.”
Brat then turns his attention to Eric Cantor.
“What we should do is love one another,” Brat says. “I did not run against Eric Cantor as a person. He’s a good man, I ran for a set of principles.”
Among Brat’s six principles outlined in the speech, “a commitment to free markets, and a commitment to equal treatment under the law for all people.”
The latter principle segues into Brat’s stance on immigration, specifically, calling against amnesty for those who reside illegally in the U.S.
“I love every single person that God made on this planet, because they’re all children of God,” Brat says. “From that principle, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we derive the second principle, that everyone should be treated equally under the law.”
Fiscal responsibility, following constitutional principles, strong defense, and adherence to faith-based moral fabric round out Brat’s six principles.
After 11 minutes, Brat leaves the microphone, the camera flashes capture his final “thank yous,” and staffers begin to field a flood of phone calls dealing with morning appearances.
Among the phone calls, the Tokyo desk of CNBC calling at 10am JST, asking for an interview.
A supporter in her blue “I’m in the Brat Pack” t-shirt jumps for joy as a camera snaps. She turns to us and says, “If we can do this, no one can stop us.”