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Virginia native Kristi Way never had plans to run a congressional office.
Yet the 35-year-old finds herself as the chief of staff for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) personal office.
Way began working for Cantor when the ambitious lawmaker was earning his stripes in the Virginia Legislature.
“I knew who Eric was because even back then — he was elected to the House of Delegates as the youngest member — he was ‘that cool guy that stood out,’ ” she explained.
Then-Del. Cantor hired Way as a legislative assistant in 1999.
When she took the job, she had no idea he would run for Congress and, furthermore, “no interest in being a part of congressional races in D.C.,” she said.
Little more than six months later, she was driving Cantor around the district, scheduling his events as he navigated an intense primary battle — which he won by 263 votes — and, later, a general-election victory.
During those 18-hour campaign days, Way came to know Cantor and his family.
“I was very inspired by his work ethic and how excited he was to run for Congress,” she said, noting that she wouldn’t have campaigned so hard for just any politician.
When Cantor was elected to the House, Way became director of the Richmond-based district. She remained in that position until taking a brief stint on a statewide political campaign.
When she returned, Way started splitting time between D.C. and Richmond. In 2006, when Cantor was elected House minority whip, Way was selected as chief of staff for his personal office.
She continues to work in Richmond and D.C., but if Cantor were to up and retire, there’s no question that the native of Albemarle County — known as Thomas Jefferson country — would hightail it back to the heart of the Old Dominion.
— Molly K. Hooper