Tea Party delivers stunning victory, unseats House majority leader
In a historic upset propelled by Tea Party activists, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was defeated in the congressional primary on Tuesday, with insurgent David Brat delivering an unpredicted and devastating loss to the man who has widely been touted as the next speaker.
The race was called shortly after 8 p.m. by The Associated Press, which pronounced Cantor's 13-year political career at least temporarily over. Cantor conceded a short time later. With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Brat was ahead with 55.6 percent of the vote compared with Cantor's 44.4 percent.
People close to Cantor told Politico that internal polls showed him hovering near 60 percent in the run-up to the race.
“I know there's a lot of long faces here tonight,” Cantor, 51, said to a stunned crowd of supporters in a Richmond hotel ballroom. “It's disappointing, sure. But I believe in this country. I believe there's opportunity around the next corner for all of us.”
No sitting House majority leader has lost a primary since 1899.
The party's establishment struggled to grapple with the news while some conservatives relished the surprising win.
“This is an earthquake,” said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, a friend of Cantor's. “No one thought he'd lose.” But Brat, tapping into conservative anger over Cantor's role in supporting efforts to reform federal immigration laws, found a way to combat Cantor's significant financial edge.
Brat reportedly raised about $200,000 for his campaign, and Cantor had as much as $5 million in his war chest.
“Eric Cantor's loss tonight is an apocalyptic moment for the GOP establishment,” said Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica, a conservative group that targeted Cantor throughout the primary. “The grassroots is in revolt and marching.”
Others had a different take. Longtime Virginia Republican strategist Chris LaCivita said Cantor's work to build the Republican majority had taken him away from his home district. “He spent days, weeks and months traveling the country, raising money to add to the Republican majority. What can be attributed to Eric in doing so is unquestionable. Unfortunately, it had a price.”
Brat, an economics professor, was not considered a major threat until election night. But there were early signs of trouble.
Brat exposed discontent with Cantor in the solidly Republican, suburban 7th Congressional District by attacking the Republican leader on his votes to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown.
A seemingly critical issue for Cantor was immigration. The majority leader had championed a Republican version of the Dream Act, which would enable some undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children to qualify for in-state college tuition rates. Although Cantor never brought the legislation to the House floor, his support for the idea irritated staunch opponents of immigration reform.
During a May meeting of Republican activists in the district, Cantor was booed, and an ally he campaigned for was ousted as the local party chairman in favor of a Tea Party favorite.
A GOP strategist who requested anonymity said Republicans will study the Cantor results carefully for signs of Democratic crossover, but anecdotally, he did not hear that was a real issue. “People always talk about that, but it hasn't ever materialized,” he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Military pilot was killed in Va. crash
- Judge reaffirms Texas’ ‘Robin Hood’ system of school funding unconstitutional
- U.S. waffling on ISIS feeds confusion among possible allies
- Study examines body’s bacteria on move indoors
- Military: Pilot was killed in Virginia F-15 crash
- White House ricochets in nonprofits’ birth control coverage fray
- Senate to look at earthquake risks at California nuke plant
- Police: Drugs, alcohol not factors in Freeh crash
- Arizona county clears girl shooter in gun range death