Eric Cantor

Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Eric Cantor’s surprising primary loss last night could be more than the end of his legislative career. It may result in a GOP that includes only Christians.

Cantor was the only Jewish member of the Republican party.  In fact, he was the only Republican on the Hill who didn’t identify with a Christian church. The rest of the GOP in both the House and Senate belong to a church that is Protestant, Catholic, or LDS (Mormon).

To add insult to injury, Cantor was on track to eventually being Speaker of the House. He would have been the first Jewish congressman to reach that position.

The Democrats in the House are largely Christian (including one Mormon). They also have members from other faiths including 21 Jews, two Buddhists, two Muslims, one Hindu, and one Unitarian-Universalist. There are also eight Democrats who do not identify with any religion.

Senate Democrats include Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, a couple with no religion, and one Buddhist.

Jewish representatives have long been more likely to be Democrats, but the GOP has rarely been completely without Jewish members. In the mid-1990s, Republican Jews included representatives John Miller (R-Wash.), Steve Schiff (R-New Mexico), Richard Zimmer (R-New Jersey), David Levy (R-New York), and Jon Fox (R-Penn.). But since 2001, the only Jewish Republican has been Cantor.

Cantor lost to David Brat, who attends St. Mary’s Catholic church in Richmond, Virginia. Bratt describes himself as “a man of deep faith.” Brat attended Hope College, a Christian liberal arts college, and Princeton Theological Seminary after “he felt the call.” He then earned his Ph.D. in economics from American University. He is currently an economics professor at Randolph-Macon college.

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