Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Cantor Loss ‘Was a 10 on the Stun Scale’

Israel was among those stunned by the Cantor loss. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Israel was among those stunned by the Cantor loss. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“I’m giving a speech. I have no time for jokes,” Steve Israel told Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Executive Director Kelly Ward when she emailed to suggest there were signs something was happening in Virginia’s 7th District.

It was 7:15 p.m. and Israel had just left an event for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. He passed Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as she arrived.

The New York Democrat was on his way to address the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, and Ward flagged that with 30 percent of the primary vote in, it seemed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor might be in peril. He wasn’t interested. Polls, after all, had just closed.

Nancy Pelosi had just arrived at the LGBT event he’d left earlier. Israel called her just in case: “I left a message which was, ‘You know I’m skeptical, but I just want to flag for you that there are indications Cantor may be in trouble but I don’t think we should do anything until we establish whether this is a false alarm.’ That’s what I said, false alarm.”

The last thing he did when arriving at the podium for the 7:30 p.m. speech was check his email. By that point, Cantor’s defeat was looking more likely — he was down by 6,000 votes with 58 percent of precincts tallied. Before he started his address (on the topic of infrastructure), Israel warned the crowd.

“I have some news, I don’t call elections but I know you’d be interested to know that Eric Cantor looks like he might be in some trouble tonight,” he told attendees. “And it was like a gasp in the room.”

By the time his speech wrapped, the first person he called on for the questions-and-answers session informed him that Cantor had lost. He’d learned about it on Twitter.

From there, Israel and DCCC staff were in “constant communication” doing the obvious sorts of things — calling Democratic candidate Jack Trammell, beginning opposition research on Dave Brat, the insurgent economics professor who’d taken down the No. 2 House Republican and shocked the world.

“I have been in this room for now three and a half years never in a million years would I have ever predicted that I’d be sitting here talking to my staff about starting a process on Virginia 7,” Israel told CQ Roll Call in a brief interview from DCCC headquarters Wednesday. “It’s probably the last district I would have chosen. If forced I probably would have said Boehner would have more of a shot of losing than Eric Cantor. Could you imagine Steny Hoyer losing a primary?”

The district is likely far too Republican to be considered competitive come Nov. 4. Still, Israel’s bottom line the morning after was clear: “It was a 10 on the stun scale.”


Related stories:

Leadership Shuffle Begins After Cantor Shocker


Eric Cantor Loses Primary in Massive Upset (Video)

Republican Senate Primary Challengers Jump on Eric Cantor Loss

Eric Cantor’s Defeat Was in the Immigration Tea Leaves

On Immigration, the Pressure Mounts for Eric Cantor

10 Republicans Who Could Be Speaker

Cantor’s Pediatric Research Bill Could Have Been a Bust

Eric Cantor: A Brief Biography

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  • Jack Everett

    How much more of the same thing are the media rags going to print on this guy? It’s the same thing over and over, he lost so get on with life.

  • Layla

    Steve Israel, you lost an election for the same reasons as Cantor. I see you are still asking everyone for money or a job. The people in your district are NOT doing well. The hypocrisy never ends on Capitol Hill.

  • shithappenssometimes

    Americans should start getting a life. In india, paupers defeat billionaires , in spite of opponents giving away 1000 usd per vote. so it happens. that too in Us where i belive they don’t pay you per vote. so sh.. happens sometimes just move on. if you want know, read abou balka suman who is only worth the money he has in his pocket defeat a billionaire sitting MP (all his family has been MPs MLAs Ministers for last sixty years and close to gandhi family) and he defeated him by over 4 lakh votes. if such a thing can happen in India why not in US. It is anti incumbency.

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