In a stunning upset, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost in the Republican primary for the 7th District of Virginia Tuesday night to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat.
Brat, a little-known economics professor at Randolph-Macon College whose fundraising efforts paled in comparison to Cantor’s, ran hard against immigration reform and to the far right of the Majority Leader on most issues. Just before 9 p.m., Brat claimed 56 percent of the votes and Cantor 44 percent, with 83 percent of the total vote reported.
As Majority Leader, Cantor was second-in-command, was assumed by many to be next in line for the Speaker of the House position, and considered one of the young Republicans who, along with politicians like U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., represented the future of the Republican Party.
Important to K-12 education watchers, Cantor was an avid proponent of charter schools, vouchers, and school choice, and he singled out his commitment to the cause early in his concession speech:
We need to focus our efforts as conservatives, as Republicans, on putting forth our conservative solutions so that they can help solve the problems for so many working middle class families that may not have the opportunities that we have. We can also put our solutions to work for the most vulnerable. I spent a lot of time on charter schools and education opportunity to make sure that everyone in America can have access to the American dream, starting with education."
In fact, support of charter schools was one of only two policy issues Cantor name-checked in his short speech. The other was the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, a pediatric medical research bill that President Barack Obama signed into law in April.
“These are the kinds of things that I know we’ll continue to try to work on,” Cantor said in his speech. “I know there are a lot of long faces here tonight. It’s disappointing, sure. But I believe in this country, and I believe there is opportunity around the next corner for all of us. 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 answers to the problems so many people are facing today.”
Most recently, Cantor threw this name behind a bipartisan bill aimed at helping charter schools with a track record of success expand their reach. The measure, which cleared the House in April, was written by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. Among other provisions, it would combine programs aimed at helping charter developers open new schools with money to help charters find and fix up facilities. It also includes language aimed at ensuring that charter schools enroll—and retain—students in special education and English-language learners.
Photo: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., delivers his concession speech Tuesday evening in Richmond, Va. Cantor lost in the GOP primary to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat. --Steve Helber/AP