Rep. Tim Huelskamp says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary loss in Virginia is a crystal-clear message from tea party conservatives to the Republican Party: stop ignoring us.
"What happened in Virginia last night represents the concern all across America. Conservatives are afraid that the Republican establishment has left them behind,'' Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican and dyed-in-the-wool tea party activist, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"They sent a message last night and let's hope Washington listens this time,'' he said Wednesday.
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Cantor, who was considered the top candidate to eventually replace House Speaker John Boehner, lost the GOP primary in Virginia's 7th Congressional District to Dave Brat.
Brat, an economics and ethics professor at Randolph-Macon College and a virtual unknown in politics, ran his campaign on a budget of $200,000, a fraction of Cantor's multimillion-dollar war chest.
Huelskamp thinks the tea party, frustrated and angry about being ignored and abused, made an example of Cantor.
"It's not just about Eric Cantor, it's about the speaker, it's the majority leader, it's an entire Republican establishment in Washington that got their positions because of a tea party wave,'' Huelskamp said.
"[The establishment] spent the last three-and-a-half years running away from that and have left conservatives high and dry and worrying and wondering about Republicans in Washington.
"Are these folks going to listen and return and fight for conservative principles or are they going to continue to ignore that and . . . lose elections?''
He added that Cantor spent more time "beating on up tea party conservatives than he did beating up on the president.''
Huelskamp was critical of members of the Republican mainstream, which he said had "convinced themselves'' that conservatives didn't matter much anymore.
"They woke up this morning with a little fear and trepidation in their hearts,'' he said.
"[Cantor] had unlimited money to beat someone who was completely unknown. He got battered and beaten.
"So that seems to me that folks in Washington are starting to be worried about what grassroots conservatives across the country are thinking — which makes it a pretty darn good day.''
Huelskamp said the bottom line is that the tea party and conservative movement, after being written off as dead, is "alive and well.''
"For two-and-a-half years, maybe longer, the mainstream media and people like Eric Cantor have written obituaries . . . trying to convince people that conservatives don't matter anymore,'' he said.
"They have run candidates against conservatives. They attempted to shut off money to conservatives.
"But the reality is conservatives . . . are worried about the future of this country and it's time Washington listened and pushed back against the radical agenda of this president. But sitting back, complaining about the president and doing nothing . . . the voters of Virginia said they had enough.''
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