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Last updated: Thu. Jun. 12, 2014 - 02:00 am EDT

‘Hardest working’ in Congress

Cantor felled by Lugar-like disconnect, Stutzman says

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U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Allen County Republicans in April 2013 that the GOP needs to “go out and sell” its conservative principles around the country.

“We need to sell them to the people that we live with,” Cantor instructed hundreds of people attending the local party’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

Cantor’s shocking defeat Tuesday in the Virginia GOP primary election is being blamed in part on how little time he spent in his home district compared with Washington and elsewhere.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said Wednesday that Cantor “is probably the hardest-working member of Congress and the Republican conference, and I know he is constantly always helping others. And he probably did not make sure things were taken care of at home.”

Stutzman had arranged for Cantor to speak at the Fort Wayne GOP dinner and to appear at a fundraising reception for Stutzman the same day.

As for Cantor’s upset by tea party candidate David Brat in the suburban Richmond district, Stutzman said: “I’m stunned by it, really. No one saw it coming.”

Stutzman said he saw Cantor during a Tuesday caucus of House Republicans.

“It didn’t seem like anything was bothering him,” Stutzman said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think he saw it coming, either.”

Stutzman said Cantor’s loss “smells a little bit like” the 2012 Republican primary election in Indiana in which state Treasurer Richard Mourdock beat six-term Sen. Richard Lugar.

“There was just a disconnect” between voters and both Cantor and Lugar, Stutzman said.

It went deeper in Cantor’s case, he said, because Brat had not received campaign help or money from outside Virginia. By contrast, Mourdock’s campaign was aided by national conservative organizations that regarded Lugar as too moderate.

House Republicans reportedly are starting to line up to replace Cantor, who has said he will resign at the end of July.

If the GOP caucus chooses third-ranking Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Stutzman said he would like to see a “red-state conservative” succeed McCarthy as the party whip.

Stutzman, who has represented northeast Indiana since late 2010, has said he might run for chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of the more conservative members of the House. Asked whether Cantor’s departure and the ensuing leadership shake-up could change his aspirations, Stutzman said, “We’re watching to see how the dominoes fall.”

The LaGrange County farmer had been part of McCarthy’s whip team until last summer, when he was removed after opposing party procedures on advancing the farm bill.

Stutzman had wanted food stamps stripped from the legislation, which the House did before reversing course in January to support a House-Senate compromise bill.

Would Stutzman be interested in running for whip, who is responsible for gauging how party members plan to vote on legislation?

“I don’t think so,” he said, adding, “I’m not going to say no to anything.”

Stutzman is being challenged in the Nov. 4 general election by Democrat Justin Kuhnle, a social services worker from Kendallville.

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