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Tea Party unseats US house majority leader in shock defeat

Date

Derek Wallbank

Defeated: House majority leader Eric Cantor.

Defeated: House majority leader Eric Cantor. Photo: AFP

Washington: US House majority leader Eric Cantor lost his re-election bid, falling to Tea Party challenger David Brat in a Virginia Republican primary in the biggest upset of this year's campaign.

Mr Cantor is the second-ranking House Republican and was considered the frontrunner to become the next House speaker. The loss is a stunning fall for Mr Cantor, 51, who was instrumental in the election of many of the Tea Party-backed candidates who handed Republicans their House majority in 2010.

Mr Brat, a Tea Party activist who earned a doctoral degree in economics from Princeton, had campaigned saying Mr Cantor was part of the Washington establishment. The seven-term House member from Richmond, Virginia, is the biggest Republican trophy the Tea Party has claimed since the movement began in 2010.

Tea Party candidate David Brat.

Tea Party candidate David Brat. Photo: AP

With 90 per cent of the precincts reporting, Mr Brat was ahead with 55.4 per cent of the vote compared with Mr Cantor's 44.6 per cent.

"This rocks the Republican conference, for sure. Eric's been a fantastic leader and a good friend. It's a shocking, disappointing night," said representative Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican.

Cantor is the only Jewish Republican in Congress and one of its most dominant fundraisers, including on Wall Street. He raised more than $US5.4 million for the 2014 campaign through May 21, compared with $US207,000 for Brat, Federal Election Commission disclosure reports show.

House majority whip Kevin McCarthy, of California, would be next in line and likely to make a play for majority leader, according to a senior Republican lawmaker.

House financial services chairman Jeb Hensarling, a favourite of the Club for Growth and other Tea Party-aligned groups has been expanding his political operation and might also seek Mr Cantor's post. Representative Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, is also considered a potential candidate for the post, the lawmaker said.

Bloomberg

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