Plano Rep. Van Taylor quits race after being pushed into runoff, admitting to affair
Hours after failing to win enough votes to avoid a runoff, Taylor announced that he would no longer seek re-election after admitting to an extramarital affair.
The runner up, former Collin County Judge Keith Self, is the other contender in the May 24 election.
Rumors of the infidelity began circulating on right-wing websites in the last days before the election.
Taylor has long touted himself as an advocate of conservative Christian values. He did not respond to requests for comment.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the woman he had the affair with said they met through her work "as an ex-jihadist helping to reprogram extremists.” And that Taylor called the affair "the greatest mistake of my life."
Taylor is married with three children.
He conceded the race to runner up Keith Self, a former Collin County Judge, who said elected leaders should be held accountable to the values they espouse.
"I plan to devote my time and energy to helping fellow conservatives build public confidence and trust and win elections," he told KERA.
Reports of the affair began circulating on right-wing websites in the last days of the campaign, with allegations from a Plano woman known as a former jihadist who British tabloids labeled "ISIS bride."
The Texas 3rd Congressional District stretches from Plano, McKinney and Allen across Collin and Hunt Counties to Commerce.
Taylor drew a fierce backlash and four primary challengers after voting to certify the 2020 election results — a formality, historically — and because he voted for a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. That attack led to several deaths, dozens of injured police officers and $1.5 million in damage.
He would have needed to get more than half of the votes in the primary. He fell about 800 votes short of reaching that threshold, winning 49% of the vote.
Self won nearly 27% of the vote, putting him and second place and propelling him into the runoff election.
“This result is a testament to the fact that voters want to restore integrity to this district and invoke real leadership that will make a difference for Texas families,” Self told KERA.
Self said voters described Taylor’s Jan. 6 commission vote as a “red line,” and alleged that Taylor had moved his family to Virginia.
Self and the rest of Taylor’s opponents questioned the legitimacy of the presidential election, despite exhaustive evidence that it was actually one of the most secure elections in history.
Taylor was one of a handful of Republicans to vote to certify the 2020 election results, and one of only two that voted for a commission to investigate the insurrection.
Taylor’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from KERA, but he has defended his votes.
He argued that the 9-11-style commission he voted for would have been less political and more bipartisan than the House committee currently investigation the political violence and its origins. Senate Republicans blocked that independent commission.
Taylor handily won competitions for this congressional seat in 2018 and 2020, when the district was wholly contained within Collin County. He’s previously represented parts of the district in the Texas House and Senate, earning a reputation as one of the most right-wing lawmakers in the state.
In Washington, Taylor had garnered a reputation for reaching across the aisle, including his participation on the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
He also had received top marks from lobbying groups focused on right-wing causes. Those included the pro-gun National Rifle Association, anti-abortion National Right to Life and Americans for Prosperity, which has been described as “a corporate front group organized and funded in large part by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.”
The money race
The most recent campaign finance reports show Taylor had more than $800,000 in his campaign coffers going into the last few weeks before Election Day.
Self, a distant second in fundraising, reported just over $92,000 cash on hand as of February 9, and Suzanne Harp had about $47,000 to spend.
Taylor’s fundraising included significant contributions from dozens of corporate political action committees, including large banks and financial services firms. Taylor sits on the financial services committee.
In all, Taylor reported nearly $2 million in fundraising over the election cycle, ten times the $206,000 for Self, who put about $27,000 of his own cash into his campaign and tapped many of the donors he’d cultivated in his dozen years as Collin County judge.
Harp reported just over $61,000. Williams and Ivanovskis each raised less than $3,000 in total.
What happens next
Self now apparently will face Democrat Sandeep Srivastava in the November general election. That assuming that Taylor formally withdraws from the race in writing by March 16.
Srivastava, a Plano real estate agent, emphasized his progressive values and background as an entrepreneur and Indian immigrant. He won 61% of the vote, beating Doc Shelby, a former vice chair for the Hunt County Democratic Party and retired Royse City resident.
However, the district was reconfigured to more heavily favor Republicans last year. Previous maps located the district wholly in increasingly diverse Collin County. The district was changed last year to include voters from Hunt County, which is more white, more rural and more conservative.
Research from the Texas Political Project at UT Austin quantified the increased GOP advantage in the new political map. In the newly drawn District 3, 56.3% of voters picked Donald Trump in 2020. Within the old boundaries, the former president won just 49.6% of the vote.
Got a tip? Christopher Connelly is KERA's One Crisis Away Reporter, exploring life on the financial edge. Email Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org .You can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.
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