Eric Cantor is quitting Congress early on the heels of his stunning Virginia primary defeat in June, despite having said he would continue to serve out this term through the end of December.
Word of his decision, effective Aug. 18, came in an interview he gave to his hometown newspaper Thursday, the same day he officially stepped down as House majority leader. He couched it as a good move for his constituents.
“I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session,” Cantor said in the interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
There was no immediate comment Friday from Cantor’s office.
In the newspaper’s published story about the interview, Cantor says he has asked Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to call a special election for his district that coincides with the general election on Nov. 4.
By having a special election in November, the winner would take office immediately, rather than in January with the next Congress—and “that way he (sic) will also have seniority, and that will help the interests of my constituents [because] he can be there in that consequential lame-duck session.”
Cantor lost his congressional seat after being defeated by Dave Brat, an economics professor from Henrico County, in a Republican primary on June 10.
Later that week, he told reporters in Washington he would be stepping down as majority leader on July 31, but also said he intended to serve out his term as a member of Congress.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California has succeeded Cantor as House majority leader. The Virginian gave a farewell speech as majority leader on the House floor Thursday.
“Walking into this building and walking onto this floor is something that excited me every day since I was first elected to Congress,” Cantor said. “Not one of us should ever take for granted the awesome honor and responsibility we have to serve our fellow Americans.”
In the interview with the Times-Dispatch, though, Cantor voiced his frustration with the sometimes slow pace in Congress.
“There is a lot of business that is still to be done,” he said. “I wish that Washington would act quicker.”
McAuliffe was quoted by the paper as saying he was “heartsick” over Cantor’s defeat. Two other senior Virginia delegation members are retiring, too—Republican Frank R. Wolf and Democrat Jim Moran.
In the interview, Cantor did not reveal specific plans for his life after public service, but said he is looking to being “a very active member in that democratic system and advocate for the cause that I believe in.”
If Cantor has already obtained an outside job offer, and accepted, there is no public record on file in the House clerk’s office of his having notified the Ethics Committee of those job negotiations, as required.