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Cantor loss a lesson for incumbents

Date published: 6/15/2014

Cantor loss a lesson for incumbents

Much is being made of Tuesday's loss by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia's 7th Congressional District Republican primary election to political newcomer David Brat, a tea party-endorsed Republican.

National pundits claim that Virginia's open primaries allowed Democrats to vote in force, throwing the election to Mr. Brat.

As a chief election official who worked the polls on Tuesday, I can vouch that such is not the case.

Working at a predominantly Democratic precinct, we had fewer than 50 voters total, for less than a 2 percent turnout. Disappointing.

We did have two voters who showed up but left after finding out there were no Democrats on the ballot, even after being told they could still vote.

What really cost Mr. Cantor the election was his confidence that he would win.

On Election Day, he was in D.C., instead of shaking hands at the polls in his district. In Spotsylvania County before the election, I had seen exactly one Cantor sign, without the election date. I didn't receive any fliers, nor did I hear any radio ads.

If I weren't working the election, I wouldn't have known about it. Most people didn't know it was going on, either.

Mr. Brat went through the district, knocking on doors, meeting people, introducing himself and making the voter feel important. When an incumbent forgets that basic principle, he is in trouble.

Money alone can never win an election; the voter needs to be reminded that his or her vote is important and needed on Election Day.

A candidate who has a small, but enthusiastic, group of supporters can easily win a low-voter-turnout election, as was demonstrated on Tuesday. Mr. Brat received just over 36,000 votes, or 7.14 percent of the 506,000 eligible voters in the district. But that was more than enough to win the election.

Mr. Cantor's loss should serve as a lesson to all incumbents to remember the importance of each and every voter who elected you to your office in the first place. And in every election, remember to remind those voters how important they are to you, not how important you are to them.

David R. Andrews