— RICHMOND, Virginia — Ever since Dave Brat dethroned House Majority Leader Eric Cantor this month, the political newcomer has vowed to bring together the warring factions of the Republican Party.
But a dramatic showdown in a Republican committee meeting in Brat's congressional district this week shows that Brat — and the party — have a long way to go.
Cantor loyalists who still sit on the 7th District Committee outmaneuvered Brat supporters to strip the committee of most of its budget — nearly $400,000. In a savvy bit of parliamentary procedure, they voted to send the money to national GOP organizations based in Washington — leaving empty-handed the conservative activists who planned to use the money to build a get-out-the-vote operation to complement Brat's fledgling campaign.
The maneuver prompted an angry outcry from Brat's camp.
"They just wanted to get the money out of the committee so we wouldn't have it. It was retribution," said Robert Stuber, a party leader from Spotsylvania County who supported Brat.
Establishment Republicans insist their plan is best for Brat as well as Ed Gillespie, the Republican Senate nominee for Virginia who is trying to unseat Mark Warner, the popular, one-term incumbent Democrat.
Either way, the well-orchestrated move is another example of a deep schism within the Republican Party that has played out across the country this primary season — with wins on both sides. Cantor fell to the tea-party-backed Brat, but Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran squeaked out a runoff victory Tuesday against tea-party candidate Chris McDaniel.
While Brat's win represented a short-term victory for the tea party, it intensified the bitter rivalry between factions in the 7th Congressional District, a Republican stronghold stretching from suburban Richmond northwest toward the Shenandoah Valley. And that bodes ill for a party still trying to regroup from the Democratic sweep of all statewide contests last year — and trying to position itself to deliver a crucial swing state in the 2016 presidential election.