Cantor’s stunning defeat brings quick response in Colorado

It was just a matter of hours before the GOP gubernatorial campaigns in the state went into spin mode, and in some cases damage control, after news broke Tuesday night that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., shockingly lost his primary election to a political neophyte who had virtually no name identification in that state and even fewer dollars in his campaign war chest. It was viewed by many as a blow to immigration reform in Congress, since Cantor had been at the forefront of the issue and considered more moderate on the subject than many of his House colleagues.

Cantor had been to Colorado two weeks earlier for fundraisers for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs. Upon seeing Beauprez at the morning event at the Brown Palace Hotel, Cantor went over to shake hands with the candidate and greeted him with “Hello, Governor.” A few days later, Cantor officially endorsed Beauprez for governor, calling him a “fiscal hawk” and adding, “Bob’s conservative voting record was always pro-business, pro-freedom and fiscally conservative.”

House majority Leader Eric Cantor and candidate for governor Bob Beauprez exchange handshakes at a Denver fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, in May.

Beauprez lauded the nod from the second highest ranking Republican in Congress, and his campaign for governor issued a press release touting the influential endorsement.

“I am grateful for Eric’s support,” Beauprez said on May 29. “He is an outstanding conservative voice for our party. Eric works tirelessly to promote fiscal conservative values in Washington and strong ties between the U.S. and Israel. I appreciate both Eric’s friendship and endorsement,” Beauprez said.

This week, two of Beauprez’s opponents in the upcoming GOP primary election on June 24 issued their own press releases on the subject of Cantor and Beauprez. Former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, who placed first at the Republican state assembly in April, referenced the Cantor-Beauprez connection in his online fundraising appeal. “I know we’re a world away from Virginia politics, but Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s surprise loss (reports are his internal polls had him winning by 30 points)... provide one universal lesson,” Kopp wrote. “Republican candidates embrace the dysfunctional establishment at their peril. Despite outspending his tea party opponent by 28 to 1, Cantor’s Republican constituents looked past $5 million of TV ads, radio spots and direct mail — and declined to send him back to Congress.” Kopp’s reference to the establishment and big dollars was a clear link to fellow Republican Beauprez.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler, another candidate in the race for governor, was a little more direct. “During his time in DC, Bob made some very powerful friends like Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the leading Republican voice for amnesty. Cantor put his full weight behind Bob, endorsing him, raising money for him and stumping for him. Cantor’s now out of a job,” Gessler continued, “and has even more time to campaign for his handpicked candidates.”

As for Beauprez, his campaign released a carefully crafted statement about the House Majority Leader. “Eric Cantor has been a colleague and a friend. We worked together to pass the Bush tax cuts in 2003 and to support Israel. While I appreciate his endorsement of our campaign, I’ve also been endorsed by more than 23,000 Coloradans who believe that I will be a conservative voice for them as Colorado’s next governor.

“I’ve been traveling throughout Colorado meeting with voters discussing their unhappiness with John Hickenlooper. I am currently focused on the issues that are important to Colorado and have faith that Virginia voters know what’s best for their state,” Beauprez said in his effort to distance his campaign from that of Cantor’s.