Skip to content

Eric Cantor Loses Primary in Massive Upset (Video)

Eric Cantor is a Republican from Virginia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Eric Cantor is a Republican from Virginia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor became the first person in American history to lose his primary while holding that position. He lost Tuesday night to a poorly-funded GOP opponent in the biggest electoral stunner in several cycles.  

College professor David Brat defeated Cantor, 56 percent to 44 percent, with 80 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press.  

“I know there’s a lot of long faces here tonight,” Cantor told assembled supporters Tuesday night, with his wife standing by his side. “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, because those solutions of ours are the answer to the problems that so many people are facing today.”  

It is extremely rare for a member of House leadership to lose — especially in a primary. The most recent majority leader or speaker to lose re-election was the late Democratic Speaker Tom Foley of Washington. But he lost in a general election in the 1994 Republican wave.  

Cantor’s defeat will likely send shockwaves through Capitol Hill. He was widely viewed as a potential successor to Speaker John A. Boehner for the top leadership spot in the House.

“I’m shocked. I’m just shocked,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., on Tuesday evening. “Obviously, it throws leadership into turmoil, it obviously shakes up the party in Virginia.”

[field name=iframe]

Cantor raised $5.44 million, while Brat raised $207,000, a huge disparity. Cantor could, in theory, run as a write-in candidate, according to Virginia election law . Back in 2010, when Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost her primary bid, she ran successfully as a write-in candidate, albeit without the support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.  

Jeff Ryer, the communications director for the Senate GOP caucus in Virginia, chalked up Cantor’s loss to his backing of an immigration overhaul . Ryer added that the Republican Party in the state will now work to ensure that the GOP holds onto the seat in November.  

“The party will do everything it can to hold onto the seat,” Ryer added. “Eric is the state’s highest ranking Republican because he’s the House Majority Leader. It’s a blow.”  

Brat is clear favorite to win in this district in November. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the district by a 15-point margin in 2012.  

Virginia’s 7th District is rated a Safe Republican  contest by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.  

Jay Hunter and Abby Livingston contributed to this report. 
Related Links:
Eric Cantor’s Defeat Was in the Immigration Tea Leaves
Eric Cantor: A Brief Biography
10 Republicans Who Could Be Speaker