Local Tea Party Activists Helped Topple Eric Cantor

Tea Party activists helped Dave Brat defeat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), but they aren’t getting much credit because national groups didn’t spend money in support of their candidate.

“The fact that Brat took off without the help of those organizations now makes it harder for them to claim his victory as their own,” the Washington Post’s Matea Gold suggested, referring to national Tea Party organizations such as the Madison Project and FreedomWorks. Gold may be correct as far as the national groups go, but the local Tea Party groups have opposed Cantor for years, and backed Brat from the beginning.

“Brat represents a serious challenge to House Majority Leader Cantor, who has helped sink Congress to a mere 6 percent approval rating. Already, some are framing this campaign as a ‘true conservative’ taking on the ‘Establishment GOP,’” Lawrence Nordvig wrote at the Richmond Tea Party website when Brat announced his candidacy. “Richmond Tea Party does not officially endorse candidates, but we feel this is an historic opportunity to take part in the launch of what promises to be a ‘watershed’ moment in national politics!”

The Henrico County Tea Party website features a string of posts touting Brat against the “weasel” Cantor, culminating in a May 29 item dubbing Brat’s race (original emphasis) “probably one of the most important ones in VA history!

The Richmond Tea Party has been agitating against Cantor since at least 2012.  ”We can do better….and we need to DEMAND better,” an Oct. 2, 2012 blog post (original emphasis) says in reference to Cantor. (FreedomWorks would probably point out that the author of the post based his critique on their scorecard, which rated Cantor a 73). In September of 2013, the group scheduled a “Cantor Encounter” street demonstration outside his office.

Two months ago, the Richmond group invited Center for Immigration Studies executive director Mark Krikorian, an NRO contributor, to talk about immigration. They also shared their views with Krikorian. “[S]ome people, including Mr. Cantor are sitting up there, [and] it’s more important for their reelection and they’re serving the Republican Party and the Chamber of Commerce than it is [to serve] the people in the district,” one man off-camera said. “We elected him to serve us.” 

The Bull Elephant reported on Cantor’s appearance at the 7th District Republican Party Convention in May. “Eric Cantor and Dave Brat speaking,” Steve Albertson wrote. “Cantor getting booed, criticizing how it’s easy to throw stones from ivory towers…he’s really, really hitting back at Brat. I’ve never seen Cantor this forceful. Angry even.”

When Linwood Cobb, “one of Eric Cantor’s top lieutenants in his home district,” lost a bid to remain district party chairman to Tea Party challenger Fred Gruber, Albertson blamed Cantor. “A friend remarked to me after Cobb’s defeat that what made this possible was the unique vitality of various Tea Party groups within the 7th District. I responded, “Do you think that’s a coincidence?” In fact, it is not, but is instead a direct consequence of the way Rep. Cantor and his supporters have consistently circled the wagons around the Congressman to ensure as much control of the local politics surrounding him as possible,” Albertson suggested. “Where in other districts, like the 1st District where I live, Tea Party and libertarian newcomers have been welcomed into the GOP tent, in the 7th they have consistently been made to feel unwelcome inside the GOP.”

The Richmond Tea Party, for its part, hailed Gruber’s victory. “You’ve proved that hard work and dedication CAN win the day,” one activist wrote when the results came in. “Does this portend of weakness in Eric Cantor’s bid to retain his 7th district seat in the House? We’ll see in about a month.”

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