It has been the highest honor of my professional life to serve the people of Virginia’s 7th District in Congress. That is why it is with tremendous gratitude and a heavy heart that I have decided to resign from Congress, effective Aug. 18.
As I reflect on this amazing opportunity, I think of the sacrifices made by so many along the way. It starts with my grandmother who fled religious persecution in Eastern Europe and found herself a young, Jewish widow raising my dad above a grocery store in Richmond. She worked hard to make a better life for those who came after her. Never would she have imagined her grandson would sit in the U.S. House of Representatives. I have indeed lived the American dream.
My wife, Diana, our three wonderful children, and our entire family have been a part of this journey. They have always been the inspiration behind my desire to serve and I am forever grateful for their unending support.
During this time of transition for me and my family, it is my foremost desire to ensure that representation is maintained for the people of the 7th District. For this reason, I have asked Governor McAuliffe to hold a special election on Election Day, at no additional cost to taxpayers, so my successor can be sworn in immediately in November.
It is vitally important that the constituents have a clear and strong voice during the consequential lame-duck session of Congress. I believe and hope that voice will be Dave Brat. The issues that will be considered during the lame-duck session this year will be crucial to the future of our country. These debates will continue into the new Congress, and the people of this district deserve to have their new voice representing them and engaging on their behalf.
This will also offer my successor the opportunity to get a head start on the incoming freshman class and provide him with seniority that will ultimately benefit the citizens of the district.
As I return to private life, Diana and I will make decisions about the future. I certainly look forward to doing what I did when I first became a Republican: advocating, as a private citizen, for the conservative solutions to the problems we face that will secure our nation’s greatness and provide a better life for all Americans.
We must protect families and respect faith. Communities should be free to flourish without government’s heavy hand. America must always be the land of equal opportunity, where hard work is rewarded and the American dream is open to all. And we must always protect the most vulnerable among us, and support those who seek liberty around the world.
One of the special things about America is that these principles and the conservative solutions that will help us reaffirm them aren’t the exclusive property of those elected to government. These ideas and the opportunity to fight for them and see them achieved belong to all Americans.
Our country faces many challenges. Too many Americans have lost confidence in the country’s future, and it is not hard to see why. The American Dream often seems to be in retreat at home, while American power and principles are receding abroad.
Too many children are condemned to a bad school because of their ZIP code. Access to a quality education is the civil rights issue of our time and I will continue fighting for reforms that empower children and parents wherever they live and whatever their income. Addressing our education challenges also includes the skyrocketing cost of college. Government has been driving up that cost and public policy has to switch gears.
I believe that we can once again have an economy that produces well-paying jobs that not only put food on the table but help put money in the bank. Reforming taxes and regulations to promote growth is one important step. But we must also keep working to bridge the widening skills gap by ensuring that workers have the opportunity to learn new skills so they can access and keep quality jobs.
Our economic strength is intertwined with our global presence. We have been shrinking from the world in recent years, abandoning the mantle of leadership that generations of brave Americans fought to attain. The result has been growing instability, declining American influence and gathering danger. Our allies no longer trust us, and our enemies no longer fear us. The Middle East is in chaos. Terror is on the rise. Iran is marching toward full nuclear capability and Russia has invaded a sovereign nation with few consequences.
Earlier in my lifetime our country went through a period of precipitous decline, but then recovered. I became a Republican because I heard Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Dick Obenshain and so many others advocating the ideas that created that recovery. While these were all great men, what was truly powerful were the ideas they were advancing.
While my days as a congressman will soon be behind me, my days of fighting for those ideas as a citizen are ahead of me. I’d like to thank the voters, my neighbors, my friends, for giving me the extraordinary opportunity to serve, and I look forward to continuing to work for an America that works and an America that leads.
Eric Cantor was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia’s 7th Congressional District in 2000.