January 15th, 2010
03:12 PM ET
5 years ago

Cantor takes heat for involvement in GOP primary

Rep. Eric Cantor, R.-Virginia, is the House Minority Whip.
Rep. Eric Cantor, R.-Virginia, is the House Minority Whip.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The small army of candidates seeking the GOP nomination in Virginia's fifth congressional district - several of them backed by Tea Party activists - have spent months accusing the National Republican Congressional Committee of supporting state Sen. Robert Hurt in the primary, a charge the NRCC denies.

But now another, more prominent target is in the conservative crosshairs: Eric Cantor, the most powerful Virginia Republican on Capitol Hill.

Cantor's political action committee and campaign fund have given a combined $7,000 to Hurt, and the House Minority Whip helped Hurt raise money in Washington last December. That support has infuriated other Republicans seeking the nomination, and not just because they view Hurt as too liberal to be the face of the party against vulnerable first-term Democrat Tom Perriello this November.

Though Cantor hails from Richmond and represents the congressional district abutting Perriello's, several of the Republican primary candidates said in interviews with CNN this week that they view the five-term congressman as a Washington insider meddling in local politics. That criticism has echoes of the contentious special election in New York's 23rd congressional district last year, when conservative activists refused to support a moderate Republican candidate backed by national party officials.

"We would like Cantor to stay out of the fifth district and let the people make the decision on his own," said Laurence Verga, one of seven candidates gunning for the nomination. Cantor's Washington fundraiser, Verga said, "gives Hurt a tremendous leg up in fundraising in these difficult times."

Verga is not the only Republican grumbling. James McKelvey, who joined the race six months ago after being inspired by a Tea Party rally, said he knows little about Cantor or his record. But he said Cantor "is making a huge mistake" by backing Hurt.

"Hurt is a moderate and I think he is by far the weakest candidate we have out there," said McKelvey, who also suggested that he might run as third party candidate if Hurt wins the nomination.

Teacher-turned-candidate Feda Morton said Cantor has the right to endorse who he wants, but said Republicans are "tired of having candidates handpicked and shoved into offices."

"I am disappointed that Cantor decided to get in behind Hurt," Morton said. "I thought he was more conservtive and principled than that."

But Morton could not point to a single Cantor vote or policy proposal that she disagreed with. Indeed, Cantor has a 96 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, a point eagerly made by Hurt's campaign.

"Eric is a solid principled conservative leading the fight against the government takeover of every aspect of American society," said Hurt consultant Chris LaCivita. "To deny that is either naivete or stupidity."

Aides to Cantor did not respond to requests for comment.

UPDATE: Ray Allen, Jr., a senior strategist with Cantor for Congress, said it's not surprising Cantor is involved in the race given his familiarity with Republican politics throughout the state. He called Hurt "a strong conservative."

"Robert is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-smaller government and we think he is the strongest candidate in the race," Allen told CNN.

Filed under: 2010 • Eric Cantor • Virginia
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Terry from West Texas

    So Hurt is "too Liberal" to be accepted by the Conservatives? Conservatives really expect its adherents to toe the Party Line, don't they? If you are a Conservative, you must think what you are told to think, say what everyone else is saying, use exactly the same words as other Conservatives to describe the Party Position, and lie when you are told to lie. Those who do not bow to The Party will find their former friends attacking them like a pack of hyenas.

    Next, I expect the Republicans in Congress to form a parade and goose-step around the Capitol building in a show of solidarity.

    January 15, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  2. andrewstl

    cantor should take some heat for being an idiot. i hate this guy and he is what is wromng with the political system. fake phony good for nothing

    January 15, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  3. Dutch the Great

    I've said so all along. Bye Bye Cantor. Saying "NO" will get you nowhere!!!

    January 15, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. Bob in Pa

    Excuse me Mr. Hamby, but we are not "Tea Party activists". We are average every day Americans expressing displesure with our government.

    January 15, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. blueridgeguy

    Does that mean that Morton agrees with Cantor's vote on the special tax levied on the AIG bonuses? The legislation that obviously violates article 1 section 9 prohibiting bills of attainder and ex-post facto laws. Maybe Ms Morton should review her constitution.

    January 15, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  6. maf

    Please Eric, stay involved!! Let the GOP implode on themselves.
    This will be fun to watch. Stay tuned. . .

    January 15, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  7. Jay

    Cantor is a typical Republican weasel. Pretending to be doing one thing when he is doing something totally opposite.

    January 15, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    This is the kind of fund raising that needs to stop. Campaign funds should come from within the district you are asking represent only. No more special interest, PAC, Unions, Wall Street, or anyone else outside that district should be allowed to contribute to a candidate. Campaign funds should come from within the district you are asking represent only. No more special interest, PAC, Unions, Wall Street, or anyone else outside that district should be allowed to contribute to a candidate.
    Campaign funds should come from within the district only and only from individuals to the limit allowed by law. But of course this will make it much more difficult to raise millions and billions of dollars now won’t it.

    January 15, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. Conservative?

    Please take note Tea Party:

    The Republican "establishment" behind Cantor's anointed choice seems to think you're either naive or stupid. Speaks volumes.

    January 15, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  10. Libertarian

    Is anyone else paying attention to these numbers? We all want change but every time you follow the money it leads back to the same place – lobbyists!!! The Lobbyist run this gov't NOT the PEOPLE. The lobbyist pick who will run and adjust their funding based on which party wins.

    I don't care which party you are, politicians are bought long before we vote for them. The Tea Partiers are just the status quo also.

    January 15, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  11. T'SAH from Virginia

    Yep – the WHIP just opened up a can of WHOOP-ASH!!!

    I cannot STAND Cantor – Never have, never will!!! But he DOES have the right to endorse who he wants!!!

    The RepubliCAN'Ts are saying NO to their own party....Jeez, no wonder they are so used to saying NO to policy!!!

    January 15, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. james

    Cantor has every right to help Hurt, unlike some of the folks going to Massachusetts to help Martha Coakley. Why don't you Tea Partiers get your priorities straight? Robert Hurt will get a disease out of office and he has far and away the best chance of winning. Plus, he will vote the conservative message enough to hold his place against the true enemy - the socialists in the House.

    January 15, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. Get Real

    The GOP will do ANYTHING for power, including nominating a DEMO-turned-REP. The GOP don't care about people, but only themselves. And if people continue to vote for them, this country will not be the richest, greatest, but the weakest and nobody will want to come here.

    January 15, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. John, Brooklyn, NY

    Once again the right wing extremists are attempting to bring about the political equivalent of "ethnic cleansing" within the Republican Party. What the tea baggers and their allies need to understand is that ideological purity doesn't win a majority in Congress or the White House...instead, its a coalition of diverse interests and points of view that attract big numbers.

    Further, Cantor has every right to endorse (whether overtly or through his financial contributions) any candidate he wants to endorse...it happens all the time. My deeper concern is that the radical right extremists are attempting to silence the voices of moderate Republicans (including Cantor) so that they can continue their work to "cleanse" the party.

    As a side note...the tea baggers and radical right extremists were not successful in the moderately conservative 23rd congressional race in New York last fall...they are not likely to be successful in the moderately conservative 5th district in Virginia either.

    January 15, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  15. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Chew Cantor up wingnuts! I love it! Eat wingnut time. NY23 nationwide in 2010

    January 15, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  16. Too True For You

    The circular firing squad is the new favorite formation of the republican wingnuts.

    January 15, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  17. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    The splintering of the cons should be a great show and NY-23 was just a preview!

    January 15, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. Mickey

    Is it just me, or do you think Cantor is REALLY creeeeeeepy...like a closet perv...

    January 15, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Old White Virginia Female

    I surely hope all of you folks will remember what Cantor has done when he runs for reelection. Maybe Virginian Republicans are as smart as Virginian Democrats who paid no attention to Bill Clinton or his money when he tried to get his buddy elected!

    January 15, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  20. katiec

    All this from a party that created the biggest government in the history of our country these last eight years. Cannot understand where everyone was when the growth, uncontrolled spending, unfunded wars and policies were going on.
    We have a president that is trying to right all the mistakes that were committed and all we get from some is hypocrasy, irresponsible behavior, radical statements and claims.
    And, undying support from the Media. CNN, with their articles, posting and not posting comments, constantly giving headlines to these radicals, never questioning, fact checking is getting as bad as Fox.

    January 15, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. Pam

    They will self destruct by going to far to the right just like the Democrats are doing on the left. When will politicians realize the American people are somewhere in the middle.

    January 15, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  22. j

    Don't like him, wouldn't vote for him.

    January 15, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. Tom in Delaware

    Meddling in local politics?

    Go tell it to Obama when he arrives in the People's Republic of Massachusetts (spelled correctly)

    January 15, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  24. teabags

    "Robert is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-smaller government and we think he is the strongest candidate in the race,"

    just what the world needs, more unwanted children getting ahold of guns... then who are you going to call, the smaller government? with less police (smaller means less)

    there must be something in the water.

    January 15, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  25. Jane/Seattle

    What else is new? A simple phone call or meeting unseen influences elections. A press that lies, distorts, and otherwise editorializes endlessly influences elections. What makes this different? It is a custom for folks to interfere in others business. In politics when you have an agenda contrary to the public interest, it becomes even more necessary to manipulate and scheme! All these polarizing issues just keep the fight going! That's what this is about – not just disagreements, but the lifeblood of a blood sport – Money! Cooperation is really not in this lexicon and that is why so little of real value gets done. Peace

    January 15, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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