Virginia’s 7th district U.S. Representative Eric Cantor today announced an earlier than expected retirement. Shortly after his upset defeat for renomination to David Brat in the Republican primary, he announced his resignation as House Majority Leader, which took effect this week. But today, he dropped a bombshell, announcing that he would resign from the House altogether in November, and asked Governor Terry McAuliffe to schedule an unprecedented special election simultaneous with the November general election to fill out the remainder of his term. So, voters of the 7th district will vote for their candidate of choice on two separate ballots: One to serve from early November to early January and one to serve the regular two-year term.
They say summer is slow around here. Could’ve fooled me. On June 8, the Virginia Senate flipped control on the sudden resignation of Democrat Phil Puckett, giving the GOP a 20-19 advantage. On June 10, Brat ran up one of the biggest upsets in political history, making the little known small college professor an international household name. Later that week, Senate Republicans re-organized that chamber to take control of committees and get a budget passed without the Obamacare Medicaid expansion desperately wanted by General Assembly liberals and Governor McAuliffe, to the point where they took the deadlocked General Assembly to another unprecedented scenario — the commonwealth on the brink of a shutdown as the fiscal year was within days of ending.
It didn’t end there. McAuliffe amended the budget to include his plan. But when it came back to the House of Delegates, House Speaker Bill Howell ruled the amendment non-germane and the budget went into effect with the governor crying foul and promising to imperialistically foist it on hard-working taxpayers. If that sounds familiar, you’re not mistaken.
There were more resignations from the GA, all Democrats. Two in the House, to take jobs with the McAuliffe administration, to pad their state pensions, and one in the Senate. The House special elections will take place in August, in time for the next special session in September (to further discuss Medicaid expansion). The Puckett seat will be filled as well, but since the second Senate vacancy won’t be, the GOP is guaranteed a majority. Who knows if it guarantees that the block on Obamacare continues.
I haven’t even mentioned courtroom drama. On Monday, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided, on a 2-1 vote, that a lower federal court judge was correct in declaring Virginia’s Marriage Amendment unconstitutional. The same day, the McDonnell “Giftgate” trial began amid his defense’s revelation of a “broken marriage.” Sad, soap opera stuff in so many ways.
Can’t we just revel in the magnificence of the recently completed World Cup and anticipate the upcoming European soccer season without all this commotion? Summer is for relaxing and enjoying the optimism of both sides in a statewide campaign — which they are: Democrats over U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s huge war chest and euphoric glee that he’s running on the tired “War on Women” mantra; Republicans that challenger Ed Gillespie’s decidedly won the first debate of the campaign last weekend and Warner’s failure to poll over 50 percent.
But the Cantor announcement strikes me as more than just a classy sail off into the sunset. He intimated that a political future is possible. Indeed, as soon as the result rolled in on that fateful June evening, there was immediate speculation about his future. Perhaps a run for governor. Perhaps taking on Tim Kaine for Virginia’s other U.S. Senate seat in 2018.
While the GOP bench may be thin, there’s nothing automatic about the party turning to a former office holder, no matter how high profile, to carry the banner. But his statement did two things: It retraced conservative principles and emphasized his endorsement of Brat. How better to reconcile with conservatives and Tea Party types?
Contrast this with the exit of former Lt. Governor Bill Bolling after he withdrew from the GOP nomination for governor last year. He didn’t only take his ball and go home, he went RINO, espousing all sorts of liberal policies opposite upon which the stellar career he had built, then went to scheming with McAuliffe to defeat GOP standard bearer Ken Cuccinelli.
Is the Cantor move genuine or a preliminary gambit for the future? Whatever, it can’t hurt him, and he certainly learned a lesson from his ally Bolling, with whom he shared the same consulting firm.
We’ve had enough excitement for one summer. Labor day is only a month away, now. Please, politicians, can we please have a respite until then?