Libertarian congressional candidate James Carr expected an uphill battle against powerful forces. He expected to spend six months fighting to get on the ballot. He expected mudslinging from an entrenched and wealthy incumbent.
He didn't expect Dave Brat.
Carr, 37, had been working to unseat Eric Cantor since February, painting the Republican incumbent as a career politician out of touch with his constituents. Brat's surprise primary victory last Tuesday means Carr now will face a fellow outsider, a Republican whom some national media have pegged as a libertarian.
That's the first challenge, Carr says: The Brat campaign is unfairly usurping the libertarian label.
"They're trying to water down the likelihood of people moving to the Libertarian Party platform," Carr says. "It wasn't an aspect [of the race] I was prepared for."
Carr, a business operations systems manager at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, says his campaign is built on libertarian ideals of keeping government small. Carr cites Brat's highly scrutinized stance against amnesty for undocumented immigrants as the clearest difference.
"We need immigration reform that allows us to have a more open border," Carr says. "We need to rework the path to make it easier for people to come here and work easily."
While Carr says he'll have to sharpen his message with the departure of Cantor, the overall goal remains encouraging voters to move away from a left-right paradigm, which he says encourages government expansion.
At the Libertarian Party of Virginia convention in February, Carr blended in as an attendee, his concealed Kimber 9 mm pistol and all.
At the time he said he had no hope of winning.
"I didn't want to seem delusional," he says of his outlook then. So does he have a shot? "Now, yes, unequivocally."