House GOP Leader Cantor Loses Primary in Huge Upset

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014  |  Updated 9:00 AM EDT
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NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd explains what led to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning loss in the 7th District.

Chuck Todd

NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd explains what led to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning loss in the 7th District.

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House Majority Leader Cantor Loses to Tea Party Challenger

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost his GOP primary to a tea party challenger, in a stunning upset that has cost the number two House Republican his seat in Congress. News4's Erika Gonzalez and Julie Carey report.

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost his GOP primary to a tea party challenger, in a stunning upset that has cost the number two House Republican his seat in Congress.

The Associated Press called Virginia's 7th District for economics professor Dave Brat soon after the polls closed, marking a surprise victory for a political novice who had been far outspent by the seven-term congressman he managed Tuesday to unseat.

"Obviously we came up short," Cantor told supporters in what amounted to a concession speech, just after the race was called for Brat, even as he called his House tenure "one of the highest honors of my life" and pledged to fight for conservative causes.

Cantor reportedly left the suburban Richmond hotel where he conceded the race shortly thereafter.

Protestors took over the space, chanting for immigration reform. According to the Washington Post, a Cantor supporter threw a glass of wine at a protestor and another told a protestor wrapped in an American flag to, "Get a job!"

Cantor was first elected to the House in 2000 and became House majority leader in 2011.

Despite the political ramifications of his loss, the election had a low turnout of approximately 12 percent in Commonwealth's left-leaning 7th District. According to Virginia's "sore loser" law, Cantor cannot run as a third-party candidate in the 7th District election, but can be a written in candidate.

The upset capped a contentious campaign that had seen a powerful incumbent and erstwhile darling of the tea party become its target, as Brat led a chorus of critics branding him a Beltway insider who had lost touch with his conservative base.

Brat, a professor at Randolph-Macon College, had the support of conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.

Much of the campaign had focused on Cantor's support for immigration reform, with Brat accusing Cantor of pushing for "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants.

Cantor -- who had outspent Brat by at least 5-to-1, according to the most recent campaign finance reports -- had portrayed his challenger as too liberal for Virginia and touted his own opposition to many of President Barack Obama's policies.

Tiffs between the GOP's establishment and Tea Party factions have flared since tea party favorite Ken Cuccinelli lost last year's gubernatorial race.

Cantor supporters had met with stiff resistance in trying to wrest control of the state party away from tea party enthusiasts, including in the majority leader's Richmond-area home district, where Brat supporters booed the incumbent at a party convention last month.

Brat will face off against Democrat Jack Trammel -- also a professor at Randolph-Macon College -- in November.

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