Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says the unexpected loss by Republican Eric Cantor in last month's GOP primary left him "heartsick."
During his monthly "Ask the Governor'' program on WTOP-FM, McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Cantor was uniquely positioned as House majority leader to protect federal spending that benefits Virginia.
"I'll be the first to tell you I was devastated the night Eric Cantor lost. We lost the House majority leader. We've never had a speaker in Virginia history; I would love for Eric Cantor to have become speaker," McAuliffe said.
The governor added that Cantor, who will officially step down as majority leader on Thursday, was very easy to work with.
"My staff dealt with Eric Cantor’s staff all the time. I dealt with the congressman and leader Cantor all the time. They were nothing but helpful," McAuliffe said.
Cantor lost his shot at reelection when he was defeated for the GOP nomination by political novice Dave Brat, a professor at Randolph-Macon College. Brat will face Democrat Jack Trammell, who also teaches at Randolph-Macon, in the general election.
McAuliffe said that Cantor's defeat, coupled with the looming retirements of veteran House members Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Jim Moran, D-Va., represent a significant blow to the power of the state's congressional delegation.
"I can tell you as governor, this isn't a 'D' or 'R.' This is about how I compete — how do I compete against those other 49 states?" McAuliffe said.