Cantor Defeated In Primary, Leaving Majority Leader Position

Jun 11, 2014

Credit J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A political bombshell hit Virginia as U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his re-election bid to a political newcomer, Randolph-Macon Economics Professor David Brat. 

Despite his huge campaign cash advantage, Cantor lost his 7th Congressional district Republican primary by a margin of 45% to 55% of the vote.

Brat was backed by grassroots Tea Party activists, who were frustrated by what they called “establishment politics as usual” in Washington. Cantor was also hit hard by both the Right and the Left on immigration reform during the campaign … and Brat pummeled him on the issue of amnesty in the closing weeks of the campaign. In his post-election speech, Cantor urged his supporters to continue advancing their principles.

Cantor was elected to the U.S. House in 2000 and became Majority Leader in 2011.  He is the first U.S. House Majority Leader ever to lose a primary.  Brat will now face off against a newly minted Democratic opponent, Jack Trammel. Trammel is a fellow professor at Randolph-Macon College who was nominated by Democrats on Saturday.

Credit Steve Helber/AP

In his post-primary speech to supporters, Brat called his election a “miracle.”  Brat said he did NOT run against Cantor—whom he called a good man—but instead, to return conservative principles to Washington. They include a commitment to free markets, equal treatment under the law for all people, and a strong national defense:

Although Cantor can serve for the duration of the year, the loss could well prompt a shake-up in the U.S. House leadership in the near future.

Meanwhile, in the 1st Congressional district primary, incumbent Republican Congressman Rob Wittman easily trounced his challenger, Anthony Riedel, by a vote of 76% to 23%.  Wittman was first elected to Congress in 2007 and serves on the House Armed Services and Natural Resources Committees.  Wittman’s Democratic opponent in the general election will be Norm Mosher.

Senior Republicans say after Eric Cantor’s primary loss he’s relinquishing his position as Majority Leader at the end of July. 

Cantor’s defeat hit the Republican Conference like a bombshell, or so senior Republicans are saying. Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart counts Cantor as a friend. He says his loss leaves a gaping hole in the party.

“You know he’s been the guy who’s been willing to stand up to President’s Obama’s more reckless issues, Obamacare. He’s also the guy with the big ideas.”

But there’s no love lost in politics. The race is already underway to replace Cantor. The more conservative wing of the party wants Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling to run. While other Republicans want to see California’s Kevin McCarthy to move from the number three spot to Cantor’s number two position.

Republican Pat Tiberi is a member of the Republican leadership team. He told a gaggle of reporters of the House floor that the race is already on.  “A lot of people have asked me for support.” Reporter: “Have you given support?” “A lot of people have asked me for support.” Reporter: “Have you given support?” “I’m not going to talk about it today.”

As for Speaker Boehner’s future? His allies, like Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers, say Cantor’s loss makes him all the more important for the G-O-P.  

“I think it’s more important now than ever that he stay around for continuity not just for the Republican team in the House but for America.”

With all the speculation swirling around who will replace Cantor, no one’s floating the names of any Virginians.