WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is expected to decide soon when to call a special election to replace Eric Cantor in Congress, following the Republican's decision to step down from Congress early and completely end his tenure on Capitol Hill.
The former House majority leader, shockingly defeated in a GOP primary less than two months ago, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he would resign effective Aug. 18. Cantor said he had asked McAuliffe to call a special election concurrently with the Nov. 4 general election, which is allowed under state law, so that his successor could serve in a lame-duck session.
Such sessions are not unusual in election years because Congress suspends its work to give incumbents time to campaign. The House calendar, which Cantor had set as majority leader, has Dec. 12 as the target adjournment date.
McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said Friday the governor's office is reviewing Cantor's request.
Cantor told the Times-Dispatch in an exclusive interview Thursday that a special election would ensure his successor "will also have seniority, and that will help the interests of my constituents." The Richmond newspaper also published a separate guest column by Cantor, in which he explained his decision to not serve out the remainder of the term.
"It is with tremendous gratitude and a heavy heart that I have decided to resign from Congress, effective Aug. 18," Cantor said Friday in a statement issued by his office. "During this time of transition for me and my family, it is my foremost desire to ensure that representation is maintained for the people of the 7th District."
Cantor's interview was published hours after he gave his final speech on the House floor as majority leader, the No. 2 GOP leadership post he held since 2011. He lost his bid for an eighth term in Congress when Tea Party supporter Dave Brat stunningly upset him in Virginia's GOP primary in June.
Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, issued a statement thanking Cantor for his service and his support. "If I'm fortunate enough to be chosen by the people of the Seventh District to be their next congressman, I'll come to the office on November 5th ready to serve," he said.
Cantor did not say what he will do next, but told the Richmond newspaper paper that he will continue to be active in some way in private life and advocate for the causes he believes in.
Cantor's departure is another blow to Virginia's congressional delegation, which was already facing a loss of clout before the Republican's defeat.
GOP Rep. Frank Wolf and Democratic Rep. Jim Moran had already announced earlier this year that they are retiring at the end of this term. As members of the House Appropriations Committee, Wolf and Moran used their positions to lobby for federal dollars that funded key state projects and were outspoken defenders of the federal workers who live in their Northern Virginia districts.
McAuliffe, a Democrat, had lamented for the first time earlier this week that he was "devastated" by Cantor's defeat, despite their partisan affiliations.
"I'm heartsick that Eric Cantor lost," McAuliffe said Wednesday on WTOP radio. "I will say this as a Democrat. I had as governor, the House majority leader, about to be speaker."
McAuliffe said in the radio interview that the loss of Cantor in House leadership, combined with the retirements of Wolf and Moran, would make it harder for Virginia to keep military and related civilian jobs that are vital to the state's economy. Virginia is also in the running for the FBI's headquarters, which is relocating from downtown Washington.