Eric Cantor was defeated in a primary election two years ago. But in Virginia politics, Cantor is a lot like stepping in old chewing gum on a hot sidewalk. No matter what you do, you just can’t get rid of it.
Now Cantor is still gumming up the works from the outside with organizations like the Virginia “Conservative” Network. The VCN is like a who’s who of political losers who are hanging around like gum on a shoe hoping somebody will be stupid enough to chew them again someday. Until then, they plot and meet in secret “invitation only” gatherings to discuss resurrecting the RINO clan.
But we always find out about these meetings and station folks at the venue to scope out the litany of losers and take names so we know who we need to protect ourselves from should we find them at our backs.
But these are the overt Cantor maneuvers we all know about.
Virginia Right! proudly endorsed our friend Tom Garrett in the 5th District primary race. And in a field of seven contenders (last I checked) Garrett is the only one with a voting record as he is presently a state Senator just starting his second term. Which is just the right amount of experience and record to know who he is and measure his record, but still be an outsider.
So how do you run in the Conservative 5th District against a man who has spent his career protecting the people as a prosecutor and amassing a Conservative voting record in the Senate? Well, one of the many opponents started out of the gate trying to convince people Tom Garrett is an Eric Cantor lackey. If I had even a hint of a notion that was true, I would not have even considered endorsing Garrett.
The opponent, Michael Del Rosso, by all accounts, is a Conservative. But we have no record to back that up with Del Rosso. And far be it from me to denounce negative cam paining, but going negative works better on low information voters than it does on the grassroots folk who are the ones who tend to vote in GOP Primaries and Conventions. We know all about Eric Cantor and his ghost. Eric is the boogieman in Conservative circles. One by one, those who hitched their star to his wagon are going down from Committee Chairmen to elected officials.
Del Rosso’s email listed a number of “facts” that are supposed to serve as confirmation that Tom Garrett is a Cantor clone. But those on the inside know that there is a big difference between the people who were truly “all in” for Cantor and carried his water and those that were merely doing what they had to do to avoid crossing the guy who was no doubt the most powerful political figure in the Old Dominion. Cantor, in his 14 years in Congress, rose from a freshman nobody to the Republican Whip and then Majority Leader who was about to be the next Speaker of the House when the voters fired him.
Eric Cantor was just about as powerful as they come in Washington. And while most people understood his influence in our nation’s capitol, few really knew or understood his power in his home state of Virginia. Cantor’s influence and power was absolute in the 7th Congressional District, his home and the most Conservative District in the state, by design. Cantor was protected electorally, at least from the Democrats.
He was vulnerable in a Republican Primary, but the odds were the longest of long-shots at knocking off a man of such power. But Cantor never took chances. The most likely challenge to Eric Cantor would come from within the Republican Party. A State Delegate or Senator being the most likely. But Cantor ruled the roost with an iron fist. He would not allow any elected official at the state or, sometimes, the local level to win if they may be a threat to him. With a wink or a nod Cantor could turn off the money or turn it on. And we all know it costs a lot to run for office. So the real power behind Cantor wasn’t just the money he personally delivered as much as it was the money from Cantor donors who could make or break any candidate financially. So if you expected to win your next election there was only one rule – do what Eric Cantor says or go home. For any elected official in the 7th District, you had a simple choice. Outside of the 7th Cantor was not as particular. But if he wanted you to do something, like endorse him, you do it or you are done.
It was that power that eventually became Cantor’s downfall. When he decided to take the decisions out of voters hands by slating delegates, that was probably the final straw for most. Slating, for those not familiar with it, is a process that Cantor used to send thousands of delegates home and give their votes to a handful of hand picked loyalists who would go to the convention. In other words, delegates were disenfranchised and Cantor appropriated their votes.
So Tom Garrett endorsed Eric Cantor over Conservative darling Dave Brat. So did most elected officials. Many privately told me they really liked Dave, but could not back him publicly. We all knew why. It was political suicide. Look at what happened to those who dared oppose Boehner on the first vote to elect him speaker. Boehner cut them off from everything. And one of those was Dave Brat.
But we know the elected officials who showed up and willingly and enthusiastically pushed for slating. We know because they sent emails asking Republicans to show up and stop the far right fringe – AKA true Conservatives.
Tom Garrett has never cast a vote I have had a problem with. And he has often been the loudest and most insistent voice for conservative legislation time and again.
For those who understand Virginia Politics, Tom Garrett did the absolute minimum for Eric Cantor that was necessary to not be an enemy. And nothing more. Very few elected officials in Virginia endorsed Dave Brat over Eric Cantor 2 years ago. And while I would have to say I would have held anyone who endorsed Brat over Cantor in the highest esteem, the odds were heavily in favor of Cantor winning and those who endorsed Brat having a new and very powerful enemy in Eric Cantor. And the next election, Cantor would remedy that with a well funded Primary Challenger to defeat anyone who dared oppose King Cantor.
But the ghost of Cantor is still making it’s way into campaigns. And that is sad. But truth be told, I would rather have Tom Garrett in the State Senate today than see a true Cantor water-boy replace Garrett. Virginia is better for it.
Tom Garrett a Cantor crony? Not even close.
But I have some advice for Del Rosso. How about, instead of smearing a great Conservative like Tom Garrett with absurd assertions and trying to tie him to Cantor, you let the 5th District know what you would do. I would have most likely supported Tom Garrett anyway, but this negative barrage which is completely false made it easy to scratch an unknown businessman from my card.
And I would urge voters to take notice that Del Rosso has not taken exception to a single vote cast by Senator Garrett. And please, let’s let Eric Cantor fade away. That was an ugly page in Virginia History that is thankfully over.
Article written by: Tom White