WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s being called the political “upset of the year.”
On Tuesday, an economics professor beat U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to win the Republican nomination for Congress in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District — the seat Cantor has held for more than a dozen years.
David Brat, who teaches Third World economics at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., defeated Cantor 56 percent to 44 percent largely by billing himself as even more conservative than the conservative Cantor. Brat also had support from the Tea Party.
First District Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) said he was “shocked and stunned” by Cantor’s defeat. “It’s hard for me to grasp, someone of the stature and the substance and the character that he has, the impact that’s going to have (his loss) on the direction of this country,” he said.
Cantor was first elected in 2000. He quickly rose through the Republican House leadership ranks. Since 2011, he has served as House Majority Leader — the #2 position — and was viewed, by many, as a future replacement for House Speaker John Boehner.
His own internal polling reportedly showed he had a 30 percentage point lead over Brat heading into Tuesday’s primary. Instead of being easily renominated, though, Cantor became the first sitting House Majority Leader to ever lose his party’s primary.
McKinley said Cantor was a businessman before being elected to the U.S. House and, he said, that may have cost him.
“He brought with him the skill of negotiating and he was trying to do that, but we have people, here in Washington, who will not compromise. It’s black or white,” McKinley said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Brat ran as the anti-Cantor. His Twitter bio reads as follows: “I am running for Congress to be ERIC CANTOR’S TERM LIMIT. Free Markets, Constitution, Liberty. No more Crony Capitalism!”
He will face Democratic nominee Jack Trammell, also a professor at Randolph-Macon College, in the Nov. 4 general election.
Virginia’s 7th U.S. House district includes parts of Richmond, Va. and the Shenandoah Valley.