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Cantor won’t finish his term

Many residents of Virginia’s 7th District were surprised and saddened to find that their congressman, Rep. Eric Cantor, said he will resign from Congress in August rather than finish his term.

News of Cantor’s resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives broke in a column and interview featured in the Richmond Times–Dispatch Friday.

As a result of the decision, the 7th District will be without representation for at least a short time.

Cantor, 51, stepped down as majority leader of the House on July 31, before a five-week recess.

“It has been the highest honor of my professional life to serve the people of Virginia’s 7th District in Congress,” he wrote. “That is why it is with tremendous gratitude and a heavy heart that I have decided to resign from Congress, effective Aug. 18.”

Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington, said Cantor’s resignation was not unexpected, especially given the loss of his leadership position.

“Oftentimes when people are defeated, they do leave before the term expires before moving on to the next job,” he said. “It would be a major step down to be a regular congressman, especially a lame-duck one.”

David Ross, chairman of the Spotsylvania County Republican Committee, said he read the coverage of Cantor’s resignation, but was initially very surprised.

“I’m surprised that it happened, but I find that it was an honorable thing for him to do,” he said. “I’m very hopeful that Dave Brat will be filling those shoes.”

Ross also serves as chairman of the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors.

Brat is the Republican nominee to succeed Cantor.

Barbara Taylor, former community outreach director at Cantor’s office in Culpeper, said that the grace and dignity Cantor presented himself with was no less than the norm.

“I knew that, whatever he decided to do, he would be very gracious about it, and that he would really land on his feet,” she said. “Whatever he decides to do now, the doors will be wide open for him.”

Supervisor Sue Hansohn, who represents the Catalpa district of Culpeper County, said she was very saddened to read the news Friday morning.

“I think you know the congressman has put his heart and soul in his work. It’s kind of sad to see him leave,” she said. “I think Eric wants the best for our country and wishes whoever well, I’m just disappointed that Eric isn’t going to be there.”

Pat Mullins, a Louisa County resident and chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said Cantor had been a “tireless servant” for his district since his days in the House of Delegates.

“His decision to step aside early is one last selfless act. In so doing, he gives the 7th District—and the balance of Virginia—a stronger voice in Congress,” Mullins said.

A statement from Congressman Rob Wittman, R–1st, said he was “honored” to have served with his friend Cantor in the House.

“Eric has been a steady voice on behalf of Virginians,” he said, “and has consistently pursued policies and ideas to preserve our American freedoms and improve the way of life in our communities, commonwealth and nation.”

Once Cantor’s resignation takes effect on Aug. 18—during Congress’ five-week recess—Virginia’s 7th District will be without a representative.

Farnsworth said the timing of this resignation is unlikely to have an overall effect on the district’s political activity until after the general election, but it is likely to limit access to constituent services for the district.

“It’s important to remember that not only Cantor will be leaving, but also his staff,” he said. “It may be problems with a small business loan, some sort of emergency leave for members of the armed forces, passport delays. That said, the period of time would be relatively short.”

Cantor wrote that he has asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to hold a special election concurrent with the general election, “at no additional cost to taxpayers,” on Nov. 4, so his successor can participate in the lame-duck session of Congress.

There has been no word from the governor’s office about whether the special election will take place.

Cantor also endorsed Brat, to whom he lost by 10 percentage points in the Republican primary this spring.

“It is vitally important that the constituents have a clear and strong voice during the consequential lame-duck session of Congress,” Cantor wrote. “I believe and hope that voice will be Dave Brat.”

A statement from Brat posted to Facebook thanked Cantor for the endorsement and said he’d be ready to serve on Nov. 5 if elected.

Democratic candidate Jack Trammell said he appreciated Cantor’s service to the district, but that this announcement did not mean any changes in his campaign.

“I agree that it would be best for this new voice to be in Washington and be empowered as soon as possible to do the work of/for the voters of the 7th District,” he said.

Doug Rogers, former chair of the Orange County Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia, said that Cantor’s resignation was a sad day for the Commonwealth and the nation.

“I’m a big Eric Cantor supporter,” he said. “I watched his talk to Congress, and he went out on a high road as a gentleman and a scholar.”

Culpeper County Administrator Frank Bossio said that Cantor, a close friend, had done a great job as a congressman and national leader, and that the great loss had stemmed more from his defeat in the primaries rather than his early departure from Congress.

“We lost a kind of political capability, and in the short amount of time I don’t think it will matter,” he said. “I’m sad to see him go, and I think we need to let him know that.”

Dawnthea Price: 540/374-5403