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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses GOP primary to tea-party challenger

A tea party-backed challenger in the Republican primary has defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tonight, reported Politico. Economics professor, Dave Brat, won a stunning upset victory against Cantor on Tuesday in the 7th District Republican primary contest, which is in the Richmond area.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been defeated by a tea party-backed challenger in the Republican primary in Virginia. Economics professor Dave Brat won a stunning upset victory against Cantor.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Dave Brat, a local economics professor, toppled House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday night in the most shocking primary defeat since Republicans took the House in 2010. Republicans could be heard saying, "We didn’t see that coming." To say it was a surprise is an understatement.

While this has not been a good season for tea party challengers against entrenched incumbents, this victory will add fuel to the tea party movement and buoy the candidacy of other challengers. The conservative challenger’s victory halts one of the most meteoric rises in national politics, and illustrates the strong anti-incumbent fever that has taken over Cantor’s Richmond-area district. Cantor is the second House incumbent to lose this primary season — Texas GOP incumbent Ralph Hall was defeated by a tea party backed challenger at the end of May.

Cantor’s defeat not only reorders Virginia politics, where Cantor was the highest-ranking Republican, but it completely throws the House Republican leadership into flux. Cantor, 51, was long seen as the next speaker of the House after John Boehner retires. The rumor has been swirling around Washington that this would be Boehner's last year as Speaker of the House. The loss of Cantor, coupled with Boehner's possible departure, could leave the Republicans with a serious leadership vacuum and it is sure to strengthen the hands of the tea party in the Republican caucus.

Cantor had sensed a challenge, 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 is an economics professor and a political novice, had just $40,000 in the bank at the end of March.

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.

In what was expected to be a closer race, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham also was challenged from the right, he has beaten back that challenge, according to The Associated Press. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has won the Republican Senate nomination outright, With 54 percent of precincts reporting, Graham had 59 percent of the vote, higher than the 50-percent threshold to avoid a June 24 runoff. His closest competitor was state Sen. Lee Bright, with 13 percent. The other five challengers were in the single digits, Politico says.

What the repercussions of this stunning defeat will mean remains to be seen. Will the stalled "immigration bill" come to the floor now, or will the Republicans become even more entrenched and obstructionist? That is the question on this and many other issues.