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Cantor, former House majority leader, endorses Freitas
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Cantor, former House majority leader, endorses Freitas

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Eric Cantor, a former House majority leader, has endorsed state Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.

Cantor joined with Dave Brat, his former political rival, to back Freitas for the Central Virginia post that the two men once held.

“Nick Freitas has spent his life in service to others and to our nation,” Cantor said in a statement published in The Hill, which reports about U.S. politics and Capitol Hill. “I know that Nick will put the people of Central Virginia first as our next representative and I am proud to endorse his candidacy.”

“Incredibly honored that Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has put his trust in me to take back Virginia’s 7th Congressional District,” Freitas tweeted Tuesday. “The entire Republican Party is unified in our efforts to win this race and regain the majority!”

The Culpeper legislator is among the GOP candidates being funded by the House Republicans’ campaign arm as a member of its Young Guns program. The Army veteran of two combat tours in Iraq was endorsed last week by the National Federation of Independent Business, the country’s largest small-business association.

Spanberger was endorsed last week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The former CIA officer and U.S. postal inspector chairs the House Committee on Agriculture’s Conservation & Forestry Subcommittee and serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Cantor will join Freitas’s general election finance committee with Brat, The Hill reported.

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Cantor and his allies represent the party’s establishment wing, while Brat unseated the majority leader as a Tea Party insurgent, The Hill noted. Brat, an economics professor at Virginia’s Randolph-Macon College, became a member of the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus. He’s now dean of Liberty University’s business school.

Tom Bliley, who represented the 7th District for 20 years before Cantor, is also a member of Freitas’ finance committee, The Hill said.

This spring, Brat endorsed Freitas in the 7th District’s Republican convention contest.

Brat was elected to represent Virginia’s 7th District primary in June 2014, shocking the political world by defeating Cantor, the House majority leader.

In 2018, Spanberger defeated Brat by a 50 percent to 48 percent margin. Before Spanberger took office, a Republican had represented the 7th District since 1971.

“To beat Abigail Spanberger, we need a candidate that is a proven conservative leader, can articulate the conservative message, and has what it takes to overcome the millions of dollars that will pour into our district from billionaires like Michael Bloomberg as they try to save the congressional seat that they bought in 2018,” Brat said as he endorsed Freitas last spring.

The National Republican Congressional Committee began targeting Spanberger in February 2019 because she is among the freshman House members who flipped GOP-held seats in the 2018 midterm elections. Donald Trump won the 7th District in the 2016 general election.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the 7th District race as a “Democratic toss-up.” Last November, it had moved Spanberger’s re-election contest from toss-up to “Lean Democratic” after Virginia Democrats won big in 2019’s races.

As of June 30, after the latest fundraising report, Spanberger had raised $4.86 million to Freitas’ $1.02 million, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

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Clint Schemmer, a journalist since 1980, has worked at papers in California, North Carolina and Virginia. He’s been a bureau chief, editorial-page editor, copy desk chief and local news editor. Now a staff writer at the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

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