ERIC IVAN CANTOR
Eric Cantor was House Majority Leader from 2011 to 2014, before being unceremoniously bumped from Congress in a primary in his Richmond, Virginia, district, where he had served since 2001. The unexpected loss was a Guinness record as the dubious distinction of being the first-ever sitting House Majority Leader to lose a primary bid. Cantor was second in line in leadership behind Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH). The stunning upset victory by unknown economics professor David Brat forced Republicans in the House into a leadership scramble.
At the time of the defeat, Cantor was also the highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress in its history, and the only non-Christian Republican in the House or Senate. While Cantor’s primary loss—to a Tea Party member who was outspent 40-to-1—was a significant upset, he had already been the target of critical heat from Virginia Republicans. In May 2014 he was booed at the 7th District’s Republican convention. This was his third contested primary race in his eight congressional elections. In 2000, Cantor won his first primary election by a margin of only 0.6 percentage points. One local reporter said that Cantor was widely perceived as “arrogant and unapproachable.” Brat served two terms before being ousted himself.
According to Joan Walsh in a 2014 Salon piece after Cantor’s loss headlined Eric Cantor got what he deserved: A political fraud’s stunning demise, “This is a huge victory for anti-immigration extremists, including Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, [and] Laura Ingraham….” Opponent Brat said, “Eric Cantor represents large corporations who want a never-ending supply of cheap, low-wage foreign labor.” Walsh went on, “But it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. Cantor is another conscience-free Republican leader who courted the Tea Party when it seemed politically advantageous and then tried to run from it when it was clear it was going to bite him in the ass.”
In the 2016 presidential race, Cantor first endorsed Jeb Bush and subsequently Donald Trump after Bush ended his campaign.
In this year’s race, both Cantor and Brat have endorsed Republican Nick Freitas in the race for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, against freshman incumbent Abigail Spanberger.
Cantor was born in 1963. He received a BA degree from The George Washington University in 1985, a JD from William and Mary in 1988, and a Master of Science in Real Estate Development from Columbia in 1989. Before being elected to the US House of Representatives in 2000, Cantor also served in the Virginia House of Delegates. Perhaps ironically, Cantor’s wife is a lifelong Democrat, is pro-choice, and supports same-sex marriage.
In the House, Cantor was a top fundraiser, bringing in over $30 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee. He was one of three founding members of the GOP Young Guns (the others being Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan), dedicated to electing open seat and challenger Republicans nationwide. In 2010 they wrote Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders, expressing their vision of “a clear agenda based on common sense for the common good.”
On social issues—ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage to affirmative action to gun control to welfare—he was an unapologetic conservative. This view also influenced Cantor in the area of economics, and he voted against the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Cantor’s wife, Diana F. Cantor, founded the Virginia College Savings Plan (529) and was its executive director from 1996 until 2008. Today she is a partner in Alternative Investment Management in New York.
Since leaving Congress, Cantor has joined international banking firm Moelis & Co., where he opened its Washington office. The couple still lives in Virginia.
In landing at Moelis, Cantor has followed a rich tradition, according to Mark Leibovich of The New York Times, “the latest example of Washington’s upward-failing, golden-parachuted, everybody-wins calculus.” Michael Winship, writing for BillMoyers.com, said, “Mr. Cantor has no previous experience in high finance or investment banking. But the reason for his new job is clear: The Moelis founder, Ken Moelis, told the Wall Street Journal that he was hiring Mr. Cantor in part for his ability to open doors — an admission that Mr. Cantor will now be paid to trade on the influence and friendships he developed as a House leader.”