Virginia Republican Rep. Dave Brat drew parallels Wednesday between the campaign attack ads against him and the challenges faced by inmates at a Virginia prison, according to the Washington Post.
"You think you're having a hard time -- I got $5 million worth of negative ads going at me," Brat told Chesterfield County Jail inmates Wednesday, The Post reported.
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"How do you think I'm feeling? Nothing's easy. For anybody. You think I'm a congressman. 'Oh, life's easy. This guy's off having steaks,'" Brat continued, in a recording published by The Post. "Baloney, I got a daughter, she's got to deal with that crap on TV every day. It's tough.' "
In a statement after the event, Brat called meeting with those struggling with addiction "one of the most moving experiences" he has a congressman.
"As a Christian, we love the least of these -- we visit those in prison," Brat said in a press release. "As a Member of Congress, one of the most moving experiences I have in this job is talking with recovering men and women fighting to rebuilding [sic] their lives."
Democrat Abigail Spanberger, who is running against Brat in an increasingly tight race, called Brat's comments "disturbing and damaging" and accused him of being "more concerned with his own re-election than the struggles and well-being of people in our communities."
"These comments are disturbing and damaging in the way that they belittle and trivialize addiction and the challenges facing those in recovery," Spanberger said in a statement. "However, time and time again, Congressman Brat has demonstrated he is a politician who is more concerned with his own re-election than the struggles and well-being of people in our communities, and sadly, his comments aren't surprising."
Spanberger more than tripled the Republican incumbent's third quarter take, bringing in $3.6 million compared to $1 million for Brat.
Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard, who hosted Brat at the jail, called it "a shame" that the visit's intended focus on addiction solutions had been obscured by politics.
"I am especially frustrated by the way yesterday's visit by Congressman Brat is being portrayed today," Leonard wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. "It is a shame that what was supposed to be a visit to focus on finding solutions to an issue that is killing tens of thousands of Americans a year has turned into a political matter."
President Donald Trump endorsed Brat Thursday morning on Twitter, praising his commitment to key Republican stances on border security, military and veterans affairs, and gun rights.
"Congressman @DaveBratVA7th is one of the hardest working, and smartest, people in Washington." Trump tweeted. He is strong on the Border, Crime, the Military, our Vets and the 2nd Amendment. He is a powerful vote for MAGA and loves the Great State of Virginia. Dave has my Total Endorsement!"