U.S. Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader of the Republican-controlled House, suffered a shocking defeat in a primary race for re-election to his congressional seat in the southeastern U.S. state of Virginia Tuesday.
Cantor was soundly beaten by David Brat, an economics professor at a small college who was backed by the ultraconservative Tea Party movement.
"The reason we won this campaign, if there's just one reason, that's because dollars do not vote, you do. This campaign was about just basic American values and virtues right from the beginning. And the basic premise is power belongs to the people and that's what we're going to do," Brat stated.
Brat raised little money, but gained support from both voters and conservative media personalities by accusing Cantor of supporting a plan to grant illegal immigrants in the U.S. an easy path to citizenship, which opponents have criticized as an "amnesty."
Many political observers say Cantor's upset loss has scuttled any chance of passing legislation to reform the nation's immigration system.
Addressing his supporters Tuesday night, Cantor called his loss "dissapointing" but stessed that he believes "there's opportunity around the next corner for all of us."
The 51-year-old Cantor was first elected to the House in 2000 from a district that includes Richmond, Virginia's capital city. He rose quickly through the Republican leadership ranks, and earned support among Tea Party lawmakers for his demands to cut government spending.
Cantor was considered likely to replace House Speaker John Boehner after the November congressional elections.
Brat's Democratic opponent in November is Jack Trammell, another first-time candidate who is also a professor at the same college as Brat. Brat is a favorite to win in the heavily Republican district.