First up, the Winners.
Dave Brat. Obviously Dave Brat is a big winner, as he’ll get to escape the teaching of the dismal science to work in a place where the laws of economics have no meaning. Seriously, though, Brat worked his tail off and truly earned his victory. Congratulations to him and his team.
And good luck in Washington!
Eric Cantor. Cantor went into Congress as a regular middle class citizen-legislator. He emerged from Congress with a net worth north of $16 million. That’s a really neat trick! Such acumen in the ways of federal power will serve him well on K Street and in corporate boardrooms across the country. He can consider that $16 million seed money for the real money he’ll make in the next phase of his career.
Dave Brat’s Campaign Team. Here, I don’t mean necessarily just his staff, but the dozen or so grassroots leaders who organized a field army of several hundred volunteers to do with individual effort and no money what Cantor’s campaign couldn’t do with millions of dollars. These folks should be sought after commodities, and should be getting paid gigs with Brat’s staff, Ed Gillespie’s campaign, or the RNC-funded field operation this fall. These are people who know how a ground game gets done, and Virginia Republicans shouldn’t let their talents go to waste.
Supporters of Nominating Conventions. Oh the irony! Among Virginia Republicans, the perennical battle is whether to nominate candidates via a party-run convention with delegates from around the state or district, or via a state-run open primary conducted without the benefit of voter registration by political party. Cantor and his crew are, for lack of a better word, notorious for supporting Virginia’s state-run open primaries over the convention process favored by many grassroots activists. Open primaries give huge advantages to the guy with the name ID and big bank account, something with which Cantor has been blessed for a very long time. Supporters of conventions have argued that the open primaries we have here in Virginia (where there is no registration by party) allow too many non-Republicans to have a hand in choosing our nominees. Well, on Tuesday Cantor’s precious open primaries backfired on him, when thousands of Democrats helped turn him out of office. No one thinks they made up the huge margin of victory, but in a closer case it would have been really ugly.
Jamie Radtke. For many years, The Bull Elephant’s own Jamie Radtke has been fighting the fight Brat won yesterday. Brat owes a good deal of his victory to the groundwork laid by Jamie, and to the activist network she energizes in the 7th District. Brat’s victory is a vindication for Jamie’s years of tireless work in service to the cause.
The American People. OK…that sounds hyperbolic, but it’s not. The people have won not because Eric Cantor specifically is retired from Congress (though obviously many people feel that way), but because Eric Cantor the Majority Leader was defeated. It is a healthy reminder for all politicians, no matter how high and how mighty, that they, too, can fall. The lesson for politicians everywhere is that they cannot escape the reach of an informed and motivated electorate.
Ray Allen. Cantor’s top strategist Ray Allen drove his candidate into the ground. There is no sugar-coating possible here. Allen is a disaster, and from 2009 onward has counseled his chief patron to do literally all the wrong things with respect to handling the influx of newcomers into the GOP. The result has been years of mounting difficulty for Cantor and acrimony within his district, culminating first in the ouster of Cantor’s right-hand party official Linwood Cobb, and then in Tuesday’s near-landslide defeat at the polls. Along the way Allen has consistently advised Cantor to attack, destroy, marginalize, threaten, ridicule, intimidate and run over anyone who even whispers about standing in his way. Allen has done a fair amount of that kind of thing personally. On top of seeding the electorate with die-hard enemies over the years, Allen then ran one of the worst possible campaigns, where voters were treated to displays of obvious dishonesty about Dave Brat, over and over again, doing nothing but driving up Cantor’s negatives while driving up Brat’s name ID. One absolutely telling factoid: of all the counties outside Richmond that comprise the 7th district, Cantor won only Spotsylvania, Culpeper, and Orange. The counties where Cantor won happen to be the three counties outside the Richmond media market, meaning that the less they saw Cantor’s TV spots or heard his radio ads, the more likely people were to vote for Cantor. WELL DONE, RAY!! Can you please join Mark Warner’s team…pretty please?
PAC Staffers, Hotels, and Steakhouses. Cantor was a prolific fundraiser, owing both to his status as Minority Leader and as the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the country. The various recipients of this largesse (beyond the hapless Ray Allen, and other politicians’ committees) include PACs, Committees, and 501(c)(4) organizations Cantor controls. They employ countless staff members, including John Murray, who in 2012 was paid over $600,000 for his part-time job as head of Cantor’s YG Network. One of the biggest expenditures of these committees has been on lavish hotel facilities and extravagant “food and beverage” costs. You can peruse campaign finance reports for that, or you can check out Katie Pavlich, who pokes fun at the fact that Cantor’s campaign spent more at steakhouses ($168,637) than Brat spent on his entire campaign ($122,793). Meanwhile, of course, Ray Allen boasts about the starvation diet he wants to use to control GOP politics in Virginia.
7th District Republican Party. Say what you will about Cantor, but he did use at least some of his money wisely. A lot of that went to the 7th District Republican Committee, and was used to host great events, and to help local Republicans get elected (as long as, of course, they were the right kind of Republican). Without a patron like Cantor, it’s more likely that Committee will soon find itself in the uncomfortable position of spending some of their Cantor-generated fat bank account on getting the underfunded Brat elected.
Heavy-Handed Pols. Finally, the last group of losers are those politicians that fell into Cantor’s orbit a little too closely, and who followed his and Ray Allen’s lead in waging war on various GOP district chairmen and grassroots activists around the state. I don’t need to call them out by name…they know who they are (rhymes with Shmagner and Shmurt). It won’t come today, and may not come tomorrow, but it’s coming. The grassroots have figured out who is in charge, and it ain’t you, fellas.