January 15th, 2010
03:12 PM ET
4 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. Donkey Party

    The lust for power from the Right-wing is identical to the Iranian regime's lust for power. The only difference is that there are still enough smart American patriots to keep these scumbag obstructionists from taking control again.

    January 15, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  2. harold

    All the Tea Bags out there are brewing up things for Republican purity again... Bring in ole Sarah..to calm thigns down and put a real American in power...The democrats will be ready a year from now when it counts the most..

    January 15, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  3. ED FL

    I can not believe that Cantor would be wanted to try to help anybody,this guy is the least impressive politician in either party .Worse is when Canto r and Boehner are paired together you can see a big reason why the the GOP has lost so much credibility is due to this pair and their position of no on anything the Dems bring up.I would believe that their constituancy cannot believe that this is the type of representation they need or want.Will the GOP win a few seats, of course but they will still be a big minority and will get absolutely no cooperation from the majority. They made their bed now lay in it.

    January 15, 2010 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  4. independent

    In four years, Cantor will be an independent.

    January 15, 2010 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  5. Pragmatic

    Republicans are a top down organization ... not in favor grassroots ... except when feeding their cash & sacred cows. Tea-pot people may have several revolutions on their hands ... and the first may be against the iron fist control of the republican leadership. Look at NY-23 when the has-beens and wanna-be's stuck their noses in.

    January 15, 2010 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
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