House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has suffered a shocking defeat to a Tea Party challenger in Virginia’s Republican primary.
Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, had faced what was considered to be a long-shot challenge Dave Brat, a Tea Party-backed professor. The Associated Press called the race for Brat shortly after 8 p.m.
Cantor’s loss stunned much of the political world. There was no polling to suggest the majority leader was in trouble, nor did anyone think Brat posed a serious challenge.
His internal polling put him up 34 points just a few days ago. Cantor had outspent Brat by a 5-to-1 margin, according to the latest campaign disclosure reports.
In remarks shortly after the race was called, Cantor said serving in the district was “one of the highest honors” of his life.
“We want to create a Virginia and an America that works for everyone, and we need to focus our efforts as conservative representatives on putting forth our conservative solutions so that they can help solve the problems for so many middle class families,” Cantor said.
“I know there are a lot of long faces here tonight, and it’s disappointing, sure. But I believe in this country. I believe there’s opportunity around the next corner for all of us, so I look forward to continuing to fight with all of you for the things that we believe in for the conservative cause.”
Tea Party-aligned members of the House immediately said it served as a “wake-up call” to House leadership.
Cantor, who was once popular with Tea Party types, had come under fire from Brat and other conservatives for his support to reform federal immigration laws, one of the thorniest issues among the Republican base.
Brat had branded Cantor as a Beltway insider who was not conservative enough. Cantor was considered a candidate for House Speaker after John Boehner.
Democrats said it was clear Cantor’s loss proved the Tea Party had won its battle with establishment Republicans.
“Tonight’s result in Virginia settles the debate once and for all — the Tea Party has taken control of the Republican Party. Period,” Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.
“When Eric Cantor, who time and again has blocked common sense legislation to grow the middle class, can’t earn the Republican nomination, it’s clear the GOP has redefined ‘far right.’ Democrats on the other hand have nominated a mainstream candidate who will proudly represent this district and I look forward to his victory in November.”
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