This complicates things. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has called for a special election in the 7th Congressional District to fill the vacancy being left by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Henrico. Mr. Cantor was defeated in the Republican primary in June and lost the right to defend his seat. Now he says he will resign this month. Granted, Mr. Cantor’s decision to leave Congress in August was billed as an effort to spare Virginia two additional months of representation by a lame-duck leader. But his surprise move also pushes candidates and, to some degree, voters into an accelerated scramble. Whoever wins the special election in November will have to take his seat in Congress almost immediately — two months earlier than expected. Had not Mr. Cantor announced his retirement, there would have been no special election and the winner of the general election would have been seated in January. The accelerated timetable may pose a hardship even for major party candidates Dave Brat, R-Henrico, and Jack Trammell, D-Louisa. And it certainly will pose a hardship for Libertarian candidate James A. Carr Jr. of Louisa County.
All three are newcomers to politics at this level and have needed time to build effective campaign operations. It’s hard to say how much of their attention and financial resources now must be shifted from the campaign toward a potential early entry into Congress. But surely the dual demands will exact some sort of toll. After all, the winner must step into a vacancy with sufficient knowledge and confidence to begin casting votes for the good of the commonwealth. If he can’t do that, then Mr. Cantor might as well have stayed in office.
And to the extent that preparing for Congress detracts from the candidates’ campaigns, voters are poorly served.