August 18, 2022

Primary Stunner: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Loses to Underdog Tea Party Challenger

After being all but counted out, tea party activist David Brat pulled off a stunning victory against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Tuesday in the Virginia GOP primary for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Associated Press reports.

With 220 of 243 precincts reporting, Brat lead Cantor by nearly 11 points. The AP was the first to call the contest for Brat.


 Brat, an economics professor who has never held political office, reportedly had just $40,000 in the bank at the end of March against Cantor’s $2 million war chest. He has attacked Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, as a member of the elite establishment GOP who has voted to raise the debt ceiling and supported some immigration reform.

As previously reported by TheBlaze, a feisty crowd of Brat supporters booed Cantor in front of his family at a local party convention last month.

In TV ads, a website and mailers, the Cantor campaign accused Brat of being a “liberal college professor.” The most recent campaign finance reports show Cantor spent more than $1 million in April and May and had more than $1.5 million left in the bank as of June 6.

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.”

Though Brat was an undeniable underdog in terms of money and influence, he scored big endorsements from conservative personalities like radio host Laura Ingraham and other tea party activists.

The Washington Post predicted Brat would be a “bust” and “fall far short” of defeating Cantor.

Tiffs between the GOP’s establishment and tea party factions have flared in Virginia since tea party favorite Ken Cuccinelli lost last year’s gubernatorial race. Cantor supporters have met with stiff resistance in trying to wrest control of the state party away from tea party enthusiasts, including in the Cantor’s home district.

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.

Though there was some debate over Virginia’s election laws, many have speculated that Cantor could still mount a write-in campaign. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was able to defeat the GOP candidate who beat her in the primary in 2010.

Brat was also recently on Glenn Beck’s radio show to discuss his candidacy:

This story has been updated. The Associated Press contributed to this report.