June 11th, 2014
01:20 PM ET
9 years ago

Did Cooter bring down Cantor?

(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.”

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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.

Cantor challenger, Dave Brat, 'shocked' as results rolled in

“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.

American actor and politician Ben Jones circa 1980.

American actor and politician Ben Jones circa 1980.

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.

Jack Trammell is the Democrat who no longer has to face Eric Cantor

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.

Filed under: 2014 • Eric Cantor
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Anonymous


    Rudy NYC

    Doesn't matter. It's an open primary, and perfectly legal. Tea Party aligned with Dems to take out Cantor.

    "The enemy of my enemy is my friend".
    That's good, keep repeating it. "It's perfectly legal." I find it to be immoral to advocate, not mention actually doing it.


    Then lobby congress to eliminate open primaries. I assure you, things like this happen on both sides of the aisle.
    No can do. That's a states' rights issue. Not all states permit open primaries. It's curious how it's always the red states, not the blue ones, where abuse of open primaries seems to take place. New York does not permit it.

    June 11, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  2. jdun

    Politics, like sports, requires cunning, bending the rules to your favor, and finding any way to win. Wonder if the Koch brothers are as confused by this as the republican leadership is. What the hell is a mainstream candidate? Is the middle of the road completely gone? Thinking that the public will rise up in the fall to kick out obstructionists is fanciful and misguided by this evidence.

    June 11, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. sonny chapman

    Good ole Karma !

    June 11, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. smith1

    I sure hope that was the case. Most states have gotten wise and do not allow open elections. That is both good and bad for the population.

    June 11, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
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