In what Politico is calling “one of the most stunning losses in modern House politics,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., lost to economics professor Dave Brat in the congressional primary for Virginia’s 7th district. Cantor, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2001, has served for over 13 years.
Though Cantor raised nearly 10 times ($2 million) the amount that Brat was able to acquire (roughly $200,000) during the most recent fundraising cycle, the money was not enough to keep his seat. As many have already pointed out, his undoing very well may have been his unclear stance on immigration reform, one of the most consistently debated and divisive issues our nation has been presented with over the past few years.
Cantor struggled to gain footing with voters on either side of the issue during his election, opting instead for a riskier middle ground that may have cost him the race. For example, Cantor responded to criticism from Brat by distributing mailers stating that he was against giving “immigrants “free ride” but, all the while, his campaign insisted he was advocating for reform.
Regardless of the motivation for Brat’s victory, the loss of Cantor may very well mean that immigration reform will not pass in 2014. The comprehensive reform bill passed through the Senate has been held up for nearly a year now as Republicans have refused to vote on it. Cantor had supported some aspects of the bill and had shown interest in partial solutions. Brat, who has referred to the bill as “amnesty” for immigrants, will very likely not support the same sort of compromised resolution if he ultimately wins the congressional seat.
In the interim, pressure from Democrats is expected to mount considerably on President Barack Obama to use executive authority to act on the bill. Following Rep. Ralph Hall from Texas, who is 91 years old, Cantor is only the second incumbent to lose during this primary season.