House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses re-election bid

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses re-election bid

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses re-election bid to Tea Party candidate House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses re-election bid to Tea Party candidate
CBS/AP June 10, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (CBS/AP) -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was stunned Tuesday, after being booted from his seat in the Republican primary by David Brat, an upstart tea party-backed economics professor.

According to the Associated Press, Brat defeated Cantor in the 7th congressional district, shocking the political establishment. While many felt Cantor would be pushed by Brat, few predicted Cantor would ultimately be toppled.

Cantor is the second-most powerful member of the U.S. House and was seen by some as a possible successor to the House speaker.

His loss to a political novice with little money marks a huge victory for the tea party movement, which supported Cantor just a few years ago.

Brat had been a thorn in Cantor's side on the campaign, casting the congressman as a Washington insider who isn't conservative enough. Last month, a feisty crowd of Brat supporters booed Cantor in front of his family at a local party convention.

Cantor was once popular in the tea party but has now become its target, with Brat leading a chorus of critics branding the incumbent as a Beltway insider who has lost touch with his conservative base at home. Cantor - who outspent Brat by at least 5-to-1, according to the most recent campaign finance reports - portrayed the challenger as too liberal for Virginia and touted his own opposition to many of President Barack Obama's policies.

Cantor's message resonated with Ken Dawson, one of 40 people who had voted two hours after his Chesterfield County polling place opened for a light-turnout election.

"The other guy doesn't know if he wants to be a Democrat or a Republican," the 72-year-old retiree said after casting his ballot for Cantor.

But Joe Mullins, who emerged from the voting booth at the same location a few minutes later, said: "There needs to be a change." The engineering company employee said he has friends who tried to arrange town hall meetings with Cantor, who declined their invitations.

Brat teaches at Randolph-Macon College, a small liberal arts school north of Richmond. He raised just more than $200,000 for his campaign, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

Beltway-based groups also spent heavily in the race. The American Chemistry Council, whose members include many blue chip companies, spent more than $300,000 on TV ads promoting Cantor. It's the group's only independent expenditure so far this election year. Political arms of the American College of Radiology, the National Rifle Association and the National Association of Realtors also spent money on ads to promote Cantor.

Brat offset the cash disadvantage with endorsements from conservative activists like radio host Laura Ingraham, and with help from local tea party activists angry at Cantor.

Much of the campaign centered on immigration, where critics on both sides have recently taken aim at Cantor.

Brat has accused the House majority leader of being a top cheerleader for "amnesty" for immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Cantor has responded forcefully by boasting in mailers of blocking Senate plans "to give illegal aliens amnesty."

It was a change in tone for Cantor, who has repeatedly voiced support for giving citizenship to certain immigrants brought illegally to the country as children. Cantor and House GOP leaders have advocated a step-by-step approach rather than the comprehensive bill backed by the Senate. They've made no move to bring legislation to a vote and appear increasingly unlikely to act this year.

Cantor, a former state legislator, was elected to Congress in 2000. He became majority leader in 2011.

CBS/AP