Va. Students Abuzz As Star Professors Become Political Rivals With Dave Brat's defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor, a tiny Virginia college fell into the political spotlight. Both Brat and his new opponent, Democrat Jack Trammell, teach at Randolph-Macon.
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Va. Students Abuzz As Star Professors Become Political Rivals

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Va. Students Abuzz As Star Professors Become Political Rivals

Va. Students Abuzz As Star Professors Become Political Rivals

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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And beyond his surprising win over Eric Cantor, there's an interesting twist to the Tea Party candidacy of Dave Brat. His primary victory dramatically raises the profile of a tiny college in Ashland, Virginia. Brat's a professor at Randolph-Macon College - as is his opponent in November, Democrat Jack Trammell. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Randolph-Macon is a small liberal arts college of about 1,300 students. It was founded by the United Methodist Church in 1830. The chances that two of its professors would be opponents in a congressional campaign were, before this week, microscopic. But on Monday, associate sociology professor Jack Trammell became the Democrats' candidate for the 7th District seat, a job no one else wanted to take on. And the next day, Brat, a professor of economics at the college, staged his upset. Suddenly, Randolph-Macon College has become the epicenter of congressional politics in Virginia. College provost William Franz says both professors are well-regarded by their colleagues and students.

WILIIAM FRANZ: They're regular guys. They're parents. They're husbands. They're professors. They're passionate with their students. They're passionate about their ideas. They recreate with us. They teach with us. They do research with us. They're part of our community.

NAYLOR: The school's students are mostly scattered for the summer, but a few were around to talk to the many reporters who gathered yesterday, curious about the newly famous institution just north of Richmond. Angelia Sportelli is an economics major from nearby Mechanicsville and has not only had Brat as a professor, she voted for him Tuesday.

ANGELIA SPORTELLI: He is very enthusiastic and really fun, and he really makes you think and gets you going. And I wouldn't recommend another professor as highly as him.

NAYLOR: Sportelli thinks Brat would be great in Congress if he brings the determination he's shown in the classroom to the Capitol.

SPORTELLI: It shows in class, too. Like, if he feels passionate about something, like, he's going to put his, like, foot down. He's going to stand for his values. He's not going to really compromise much.

NAYLOR: Mikhaila Calice is a political science and international studies major from Chicago who's also taken classes from Brat.

MIKHALIA CALICE: We had his class at 8 a.m. in the morning, and I never fell asleep, which is - it's impressive, you know. Some classes are hard. Some classes are hard to stay awake in, and he really does a lot to try to make his classes engaging, fun, and he wants you to learn.

NAYLOR: Derek Dittmar is a communications major from Raleigh, North Carolina. Dittmar is visually impaired, and he says Trammell, who directs the school's disability program, is the reason he chose to attend Randolph-Macon.

DEREK DITTMAR: I actually think if he was a member of Congress, it would be a fantastic thing for this country. He definitely has the intelligence. He has the drive, and he has an honest, God-given drive and push to make anything that he comes in contact with better. So I think he's exactly the type of person we need in Congress.

NAYLOR: The students say while campus is quiet for the summer, students have been buzzing about the news that two of their favorite profs are facing off for Congress.


CALICE: Yeah, Facebook is crazy.

NAYLOR: Goodness.

CALICE: There are more Facebook posts about these two professors than I think there have been about the president.

DITTMAR: It's tied right up there with the new "Orange Is The New Black" serious. So...

NAYLOR: Angelena Sportelli says no one seems too worried the school is going to become divided over the professors/candidates with widely divergent views.

SPORTELLI: Some people are conservative or not, but overall, I mean, I think we're nice about it. I don't think there's been any, like, brawls or anything, but we're all politically aware. And I can't wait to see, like, campus in the fall - what - what's going to happen?

NAYLOR: School officials say they will likely offer to sponsor a debate between the two professors in the coming months. It's not yet been worked out if both will continue their teaching duties while they campaign for Congress. Brian Naylor, NPR News.

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