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US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses seat in shock upset

Published on Jun 11, 2014 8:33 AM
US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (right) and House Speaker John Boehner speak at a news conference after a Republican caucus meeting at the US Capitol in Washington on June 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - In a stunning defeat, number-two House Republican Eric Cantor was ousted on Tuesday by a more conservative primary challenger who delivered a body blow to the Republican establishment.

Majority Leader Cantor, a powerful party insider who was widely seen as a future speaker of the House, lost his Richmond, Virginia seat to Tea Party-backed insurgent David Brat, who had been thought such a longshot he barely received media airtime.

“I’m running 100 per cent on just mainstream Republican issues. The Republicans need to do a better job of following these, and then we’ll get the country out of the ditch,” Mr Brat said on Fox TV. He was outspent on the campaign by Mr Cantor – by more than 25 to one.

Yet the veteran Cantor became widely seen in his district as focusing on national Republican positioning. Failing to grasp the scope of the threat, he ignored his own re-election primary race – until it was too late.

“The people are just ready for some major changes in this country,” Mr Brat told Fox. “I attribute it to God,” he said of his upset. “I’m a believer and so I’m humbled God gave us this win. Just an unbelievable miracle.”

Republicans rudderless?

His defeat marked a repudiation of establishment politics and plunged his own party’s leadership into a state of flux in the midst of the campaign season for November’s midterm congressional elections.

Mr Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, conceded on Tuesday evening, saying the loss was “disappointing.” “But I believe in this country. I believe there’s opportunity around the next corner for all of us,” he told supporters in a short concession speech.

“We want to create a Virginia and an America that works for everybody,” Mr Cantor added. “So I’ll look forward to continuing to fight for the things that we believe in.”

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