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Eric Cantor stepping down from House seat in August

RICHMOND, Va. — After a surprise primary election loss, U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor will resign his seat in the House of Representatives months earlier than expected.

The congressman will step down Aug. 18 and ask Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to call a special election to enable his successor to take office immediately, Cantor spokesman Doug Heye said Friday.

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Hours after stepping down as House majority leader Thursday, Cantor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he would step down instead of serving his full term, which would have ended in January.

Cantor told the newspaper a special election would give the winner seniority rather than waiting until January to take office with the new Congress.

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said Friday morning that the governor’s office was reviewing the request for a special election.

Cantor lost to Dave Brat, an underfunded, tea party-backed opponent, in the June Republican primary.

‘‘I want to thank Eric for his service to the Seventh District and to the entire Commonwealth,’’ Brat said in a statement. ‘‘The time one has to sacrifice to be an elected official is enormous, and he has sacrificed a great deal to serve the people. I also want to thank him for his endorsement. I wish Eric and his family the best in their future endeavors.’’

Cantor, 51, is a seven-term House veteran who before his defeat had been seen as a potential rival — and likely successor — to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Though he had a conservative voting record, he was distrusted by some tea party supporters who suspected he might be too eager to reach compromise on immigration legislation.

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