The young Haverford grad who helped beat Eric Cantor

Haverford College graduate Zachary Werrell (left) was practically a one-man campaign helping David Brat (right) upset House Majority Leader Eric Cantor this week in a Virginia Republican primary.
Haverford College graduate Zachary Werrell (left) was practically a one-man campaign helping David Brat (right) upset House Majority Leader Eric Cantor this week in a Virginia Republican primary. (JAY PAUL / Getty Images)
Posted: June 14, 2014

In the space of less than a week, 23-year-old Zachary Werrell went from unknown to boy wonder to angry toddler, depending on who was talking.

Werrell, who graduated last year from Haverford College, was lauded for having engineered Tuesday's shocking political defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

And, as campaign manager of insurgent David Brat, he was criticized Wednesday for scrubbing his Facebook page, which included provocative comments comparing the shooting of Trayvon Martin with abortion.

Multiple efforts to reach Werrell were unsuccessful.

His teachers at Haverford, the rigorous, liberal-arts-and-Quaker-values institution on the Main Line, described Werrell as a polite and focused young man whose conservative politics set him apart.

"Zach was an energetic and engaged student with political views a little outside the norm for Haverford College students," said Anne Preston, chair of the economics department, where Werrell completed a major. He "was not afraid to jump in with probing questions and thoughts."

Craig Borowiak, an associate professor of political science, taught Werrell in an introduction to globalization course.

"He performed moderately well and was an active participant," Borowiak said.

On Werrell's student page, the Leonardtown, Md., native described himself. He played lacrosse. He played guitar, bass, and banjo, dabbled in the piano and mandolin, and liked any kind of music "except for rap."

He loved crabbing, fishing, and Fords.

"I am a Libertarian. Love me or hate me, I am who I am, and I ain't changin for nobody," he wrote.

As campaign manager for Brat, Werrell wrote on his LinkedIn page, his goal was "to take out Eric Cantor in the Republican Primary."

Amazingly, he did.

Brat, a political unknown buoyed by tea party activists, won a primary upset in Virginia, defeating the second-most-powerful Republican in the House.

Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, now faces Democrat Jack Trammell, who also works at what Virginians call Randy Mac, where he's an assistant professor and director of disability support services.

This was only Werrell's second paid political job after working for Mark Berg, who won election to the Virginia House of Delegates last year.

Werrell was a "one stop shop" for Brat, in charge of campaign tactics, scheduling, news releases, website design, photography, endorsements, volunteers, fund-raising, event planning, speech writing, media relations, recruiting talent, and voter registration, according to his LinkedIn page.

The candidate also benefited from support from conservative talkers Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter.

After some of Werrell's Facebook posts disappeared Wednesday, the Wonkette website called him an "angry toddler" who had to clean up "a cesspool" of a page.

Yahoo News took screen shots of some remarks before they were removed or hidden.

"Should sections of States be allowed to secede from a State if they feel they are un/underrepresented in the State Government?" Werrell asked on Facebook. "I say yes. I derive that opinion from our first foundational document - the Declaration of Independence."

In another post, according to Yahoo News, he sought an end to regulation of prescription medicine, writing, "Abolish the FDA!"

He complained that "there is a war on boys! Rough housing, playing soldier, etc., are all punished or medicated away."

He asked, "Can someone who was outraged that George Zimmerman was found not guilty of 'SOMETHING ANYTHING' and who is simultaneously pro-choice explain the logical dissonance there? Ie. Why its not ok to kill someone who is banging your head into concrete but its ok to kill someone for simply existing who, through your conscious actions, you brought into the world?"

Steve McGovern, a former chair of Haverford's political science department, said that he did not know Werrell, but that after the election, people were discussing his time at Haverford.

"People have been saying he was always an independent thinker. Clearly he had libertarian leanings from early on. He was never shy about arguing his point of view," McGovern said.

Werrell was always polite. And stories of his working 20 hours a day on the campaign were no surprise, McGovern said.

"A nice kid," he said. "People liked him."

The associate professor said Werrell deserved credit for being part of a shocking electoral win.

"It is amazing," McGovern said. "Kudos to him."


jgammage@phillynews.com

215-854-4906 215-854-4906

@JeffGammage

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