(CNN) - One of the most powerful Republicans in Washington lost his seat Tuesday to an upstart political novice named Dave Brat. When Brat heard the news, he said he was “shocked” and he wouldn’t believe it until he saw it for himself.
Cantor spent ten times the amount Brat did in an attempt to retain the seat he has held since 2001.
But maybe it wasn’t the breakout popularity of Brat or the unpopularity of Cantor that led to his defeat. Perhaps it was Cooter from “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Last week former Rep. Ben Jones, who played Cooter Davenport in the TV series, issued a public appeal to urge Democrats to vote for Brat in Tuesday’s primary.
“By voting for David Brat in the Seventh District Republican primary, we Democrats, independents, and Libertarians can make a big difference in American politics. It is your right to cast that vote,” Jones wrote in a letter provided to the Huffington Post.
In the low-turnout open primary, where Democrats can vote in Republican races, the idea is not so crazy. A little more than 10% of the electorate voted. Brat received 36,000 votes to Cantor’s nearly 29,000.
The letter continued: “Under Cantor’s Majority Leadership, the Congress has sunk to its lowest public standing in history. Our nation has lost faith in our most important institutions. This is not a laughing matter. It is a national crisis. Eric Cantor should not be rewarded with another term.”
Because Virginia does not require voters to register by party and no exit polling was conducted, there's no way to be sure if there was a Cooter effect.
But Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said Brat also played a role in getting Democrats to vote against Cantor.
“You had Brat operatives going to Democratic Party committees, even on election eve, asking them to go to the polls to get rid of Eric Cantor,” Sabato said on CNN. “It had nothing to do with Dave Brat. There were robocalls to Democrats in that district, telling Democrats come out to the polls.”
The 72-year-old Jones has a history with Cantor. Jones represented Georgia in Congress from 1989 to 1993, but in 2002 ran for Cantor’s seat in Virginia. Cantor easily beat him. In his letter last week, Jones said Cantor ran “a dishonorable campaign” against him.
CNN’s Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this story.