What Cantor's Defeat Means For California Republicans

The upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a Tea Party insurgent has planted terror in the GOP over immigration reform, left California Republicans who favor an overhaul in an isolated position, and put a Central Valley Republican directly in line for the second-highest job in the House.

Cantor's loss will reverberate in California: The contest for his leadership job pits Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, against at least two conservative Texans. Silicon Valley loses an ally in Cantor, who cultivated close ties to the valley's political money. And the party's likely rightward shift on immigration poses dangers to California Republicans in heavily Latino districts.

Immigration reform advocates point to GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham's easy primary victory in South Carolina on Tuesday as evidence that immigration was not necessarily Cantor's undoing. Graham is a longtime backer of immigration reform.

But even Republicans who think the media are overstating immigration's role in Cantor's loss concede that the party will be even more timid on the matter now.

"It's certainly a come-to-Jesus moment for House Republicans in terms of what's going to happen with the prospects for immigration reform between now and the 2014 elections," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

While Cantor had eyes on becoming House speaker, he was disliked not only, as it turns out, by his own constituents, but also by a healthy contingent of his fellow Republicans.

Such is not the case for McCarthy, who stands directly behind Cantor in the leadership hierarchy and will try for the majority leader's job.

"McCarthy is the logical choice" to move into the majority leader post, O'Connell, the Republican strategist, said. "The one thing he has going for him that he's well liked by his House colleagues, and that goes a long way in these fierce leadership battles."

Read more from Carolyn Lochhead and Carla Marinucci at The San Francisco Chronicle 

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