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Eric Cantor to Step Down as House Majority Leader

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After unexpectedly losing his Republican Congressional primary, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will step down as majority leader, he announced at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“It is with great humility that I do so,” Cantor said, noting that he would serve until July 31. “There’s a balance between holding a leadership position and serving constituents at home.”

An election to replace Cantor as majority leader could take place sooner, several sources told ABC News. Cantor threw his support behind GOP Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., should he choose to pursue the majority leader position.

Cantor also indicated he has no plans to mount a write-in campaign in his district.

“I will not be on the ballot in November,” he said.

Cantor, 51, officially told his colleagues about his plan to step down during a meeting of the House GOP's rank-and-file Wednesday afternoon. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, offered remarks at the event, telling lawmakers, “This is a speech I never expected to give.”

“Eric, we salute you, and we thank you, and your amazing staff as well,” Boehner said, according to sources. “We're losing a leader, but you'll never stop being our colleague and our friend.”

On Tuesday, Cantor lost his Republican primary in Virginia’s 7th congressional district to Dave Brat, an economics and ethics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, and political unknown who enjoyed support among some tea party activists.

His victory breathes new life into the tea party movement, which, for instance, sees the chance to defeat veteran Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran in the GOP runoff later this month as the next opportunity to upend the Republican establishment.

Cantor became the first person in U.S. history to lose his party's primary while holding the position of House majority leader, according to Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

In his remarks at the Capitol on Wednesday, Cantor acknowledged that he “suffered a personal setback last night,” but added, “I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of this country.”

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