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June 12, 2014

Cantor's upset loss leaves area experts baffled

The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his Virginia GOP primary election to a tea party-backed candidate is expected to produce more Washington gridlock and hamper President Barack Obama from his drive to reform immigration policy, local political experts said Wednesday.

They also predicted that one outcome of the victory by little-known economics professor David Brat’s over Cantor is that moderate Republicans will likely be forced to toe a more conservative line to avoid having emboldened conservatives deal them the same fate.

Doug Muzzio, a Baruch College political science professor who has a home in Delaware County and has been a long-time observer of New York state politics, said the Cantor defeat “signals a real danger of increased polarization.”

He also said Brat’s victory will likely produce new fractures within the Republican Party, whose leadership has showed discomfort when challenged by far-right tea party activists.

New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long said the lesson from Brat’s defeat of Cantor can be summed up easily: “Money does not always buy every election.”

“The fact Cantor didn’t spend enough time in his district and his talk of immigration reform took a toll on him,” said Long, whose endorsement of New York Republican candidates, or lack thereof, can often make or break GOP hopefuls.

Long contended Brat’s stunning primary win could be repeated by Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, even though the Conservative-backed lawmaker is seen as a longshot in her quest to unseat Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld.

Hanna, who has one of the most independent voting records of GOP House members, will be tested by Tenney in New York’s June 24 Republican primary.

“I don’t think Cantor’s loss is an isolated situation,” Long said. “What it demonstrates is that Republican primary voters are conservative.”

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