Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
[Editor's Note: It seems a good time to reprint this article I wrote about Virginia's 7th Congressional District Congressman Eric Cantor in the Washington Examiner on November 10, 2010. The former Minority Whip is now Majority Leader of the House.]
Keep an eye on Congressman Eric Cantor, a rising star in the GOP. He was born and raised in Virginia's Henrico County outside Richmond, talks with a soft southern accent, and is known for his endless energy. He worked with fellow Republicans Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy to recruit Young Guns to bring the Party back to its conservative roots, co-authored the Young Guns book, and was number two on the 2010 Jewish Daily Forward 50 list of prominent Jewish achievers just behind Google founder Sergey Brin.
In October 2010 he looked from the stage while addressing his annual 7th Congressional District Republican Roundup in Richmond and called out, "Thirty-one days until this country gets back on track! We've got work to do!" A huge roar arose from the crowd of 4,600 supporters of the Minority Whip in the U.S. House as they got to their feet and cheered ... and then they returned home to their communities and went to work.
That work paid off when a Republican red wave swept across Virginia as well as the nation on November 2, 2010. Three Democratic congressmen in the Commonwealth were voted out, flipping the majority back to the GOP in an historic election that brought in the largest Congressional freshman class in 60 years.
Among those in the new Congress will be 47-year-old Cantor who sent a letter to GOP representatives last week announcing his desire to become the next Majority Leader. Much like the Young Guns that Cantor has taken under his wing, this rising star is young, energetic, and ready to take on the Democratic progressive agenda that was rejected by voters in the 2010 midterm elections.
Eric Cantor mixed determination, hard work, and a positive attitude as he went about the business of helping to regain the Republican majority. Those same attributes have also been seen while representing his constituents as a very accessible representative who often holds gatherings and townhall meetings.
Cantor, a Jewish conservative Republican, has not forgotten his roots and the struggle of his grandparents, something he talked about at his reelection kick-off breakfast in March, when he recalled the grandparents who immigrated from Russia to Richmond in the 1930s.
"America," he shared with the room of 1,300 supporters at the Richmond Convention Center, "is the place of hope and opportunity -- the only land where everything is still possible."
An in-depth story in the November 7 Richmond Times-Dispatch expanded on the background of this third generation American. His grandparents fled Russia and relocated to Richmond near other family members who had also escaped anti-Semitic persecution prior to the Bolshevik Revolution. They set up a small grocery business, saved for their sons' futures, and when Cantor's grandfather died at the age of 36, his grandmother held the family together and sent both sons to college. His father became an attorney, began a business in Richmond, and became involved in Republican politics:
In "Young Guns," Cantor said he became a rarity -- a Jew in the Republican Party -- because "it was the Republican Party that gave my father the opportunity to provide a better life for me and my family."
He said that in the 1950s and 1960s his father was turned off by the segregationist policies of Virginia's ruling Democratic Party.
"All [my grandmother] wanted was an opportunity to succeed," Cantor said at his well-attended victory party Tuesday night at the Hilton in Short Pump. "She took responsibility for her family. And, through her hard work, she saw to it that her two boys had a college education. She was a great believer in the promise of America."
The work ethic of his grandparents was passed down to their grandson Eric who became an attorney, got his feet wet in politics by interning for Congressman Tom Bliley while in college, then won a seat in the House of Delegates in 1991. He later ran for and won Bliley's seat upon his retirement in 2000. Cantor's rise up the leadership ladder began two years later when he was tapped to become Deputy Whip and then, in 2008, he was voted in as Minority Whip.
Now, with the 2010 Republican takeover of the House behind them, Cantor stands to be the next Majority Leader. He has listened to the people and is preparing to battle House Democrats over their unpopular legislation. Already making the rounds of news network television shows and working with John Boehner, the presumptive future Speaker of the House, a plan has been laid out to stop the liberal agenda by repealing the odious 2009 health care reform bill and keeping taxes low. The most immediate decision will be whether to keep the Bush tax cuts, an issue that will loom large over the reconvened Congress when members return to Washington on November 15.
Eric Cantor is a roll-up-your-sleeves leader who has a plan for the future of the Republican Party. In Delivering on Our Commitment: A Majorty to Limit Government and Create Jobs, he emphasized job growth, touted the popular YouCut.com program that allowed everyday Americans to suggest fiscal cuts to Congress, proposed entitlement reform and the demise of earmarks, and stressed the need to reduce the size of federal government. Eric Cantor, the epitome of the American dream sought by his grandparents, is ready to help lead the way.