10:16am

Wed June 11, 2014
The Two-Way

The Cooter Effect: Did Ben Jones Help Unseat Eric Cantor?

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 2:18 pm

To the pile of explanations for the shocking primary loss by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to challenger Dave Brat, add one more: the idea that Democrats and independents tilted the Republicans' open primary at the prompting of former Rep. Ben Jones, a Democrat.

Jones, who played the role of mechanic Cooter Davenport on the 1980s TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, lost a race against the incumbent Cantor more than a decade ago. It seems to have left a bad taste in his mouth: He recently wrote an open letter to voters urging them to use the Republican primary to send a message.

The Virginia primary between Cantor and Brat "may be the only way to empower those who want to make a statement about the dysfunctional Congress and 'politics as usual,' " Jones wrote, in a letter that has gained new currency today after being reported by The Huffington Post on Friday.

Here's more from Jones' letter:

"From what I know of Dave Brat, he is a good, honest, and honorable man. And from what I know of Eric Cantor, I can say only that he ran a truly dishonorable campaign against me back in 2002. He ducked debates, slandered me in slick mailings, questioned my patriotism and even mocked my Southern heritage. He simply cannot be taken at his word. You can call that 'sour grapes' if you want to, but I am just telling it the way it was, and surely is."

Before last night, the 7th District in Virginia was considered to be firmly in Cantor's grasp. No Democrat ran in the primary; last week, the Democratic Committee nominated Jack Trammell to run in a move that was seen as a "just in case" step.

As Huffington Post said of Jones' ploy to remove Cantor, "It's so crazy it just might work."

The line echoes one of Jones' from his TV days as Cooter, the character who said, "I might be crazy, but I ain't dumb."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.