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Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Van Taylor ends campaign after admitting affair with ‘ISIS Bride’

Taylor had been forced into a runoff over support for January 6th investigation

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TexasPLANO, Texas (CFP) — Just one day after being forced into a primary runoff to keep his seat, Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, has ended his re-election campaign after admitting to an extramarital affair with the widow of an Islamic jihadist who fought for the terrorist group ISIS

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Texas Republican U.S. Rep Van Taylor drops out of re-election race

The revelation of the affair appears to have been engineered by one of Taylor’s GOP primary opponents, who leaked an interview with the woman to a right-wing website.

In an email to supporters, Taylor, 49 — a married father of three from Plano whose campaign website described him as a “Family Man” — called the affair “the greatest failure of my life.”

“I want to apologize for the pain I have caused with my indiscretion, most of all to my wife Anne and our three daughters,” Taylor said.

The woman involved, Tania Joya, a British national who lived in Taylor’s district, was the widow of John Georgelas, an American convert to Islam who died fighting for ISIS in Syria in 2017. She has been dubbed as the “ISIS Bride” by the British tabloids.

With Taylor’s departure, former Colin County Judge Keith Self, who finished second in Tuesday’s primary in District 3, will become the Republican nominee and the favorite to win the seat in November in the heavily Republican district in the northern Dallas suburbs.

Taylor, who was seeking a third term in the House, was facing political headwinds from Donald Trump followers angry at him for voting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and supporting a congressional investigation into the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol.

He won 49% of the primary vote against four challengers, one of whom, Suzanne Harp, helped engineer the public scandal that brought Taylor’s campaign to an end.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Joya revealed the affair to Harp in an attempt to get her to use the information to privately pressure Taylor to leave Congress. Instead, Harp sent a supporter to interview Joya and leaked audio of the interview to National File, a right-wing website that posted it two days before the primary.

Harp finished third behind Taylor and Self.

Joya, who left her husband and fled to Turkey shortly after he took her and their children to Syria, told the Dallas Morning News that she met Taylor through her work helping to reprogram jihadists away from extremism. Their affair lasted nine months, she said.

She also claimed that Taylor had given her $5,000 to help with expenses on the condition she not disclose the affair.

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Texas U.S. House Primaries: Incumbents Henry Cuellar, Van Taylor forced into runoffs

Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw crushes opponents angry over his criticism of Donald Trump

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TexasAUSTIN (CFP) – Two incumbent Texas U.S. House members, Democrat Henry Cuellar and Republican Van Taylor, have been forced into primary election runoffs after narrowly failing to gain outright majorities in Tuesday’s primary.

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U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Van Taylor forced into primary runoffs

In District 28 in South Texas, Cuellar has an 800-vote lead over Laredo immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, in a rematch of their 2020 contest. They will face each other again May 24, after neither cleared 50%.

In District 3 in suburban Dallas, Taylor –- under fire from Donald Trump supporters for voting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and supporting a congressional investigation into the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol – came in 48.7% in a race against four challengers.

However, a day after the primary, Taylor withdrew from the race after admitting to an extramarital affair, which will give the nomination to the second place finisher, former Collin County Judge Keith Self.

In other U.S. House races Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep Dan Crenshaw survived a challenge from primary opponents upset over his criticism of Trump. Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL seen as one of the party’s rising stars since his election in 2018, took 75% to crush three opponents in District 2 in suburban Houston.

In District 8 in suburban Houston, Morgan Luttrell, a Navy veteran and former adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy who had the backing of Republican leaders in Washington, won 53% in the GOP primary to avoid a runoff.

The contest had been seen as a proxy fight over the future direction of the party between Luttrell and  Christian Collins, a political consultant and podcaster who was backed by far-right voices in the House Freedom Caucus. In the end, Luttrell beat Collins by more than 30 points.

In District 28, which stretches from the suburbs of San Antonio to the U.S.-Mexico border, Cuellar took 48.5% of the vote to 45.6% for Cisneros.

Cisneros is running with strong backing of luminaries on the Democratic left in her bid to unseat the more conservative Cuellar, who opposes gun control and is the last pro-life Democrat left in the House.

While Cisneros swept the more urban parts of the district, Cuellar rolled in rural areas and in Laredo, where he has been a political fixture for decades. He went ahead when results from Starr County were finally reported early Wednesday, where he took 70% of the vote.

Cuellar is also running under the shadow of a January FBI raid on his home and office, related to an investigation of donations connected to Azerbaijan. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Republicans, buoyed by Trump’s strong showing among Hispanic voters in South Texas in 2020, have targeted the district as a pick-up opportunity.

The Republican race is headed to a runoff between Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, and Sandra Whitten, who was the party’s nominee for the seat in 2020.

In Dallas, the Democratic race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in District 30 is headed to a runoff between State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who took 48%, and Jane Hope Hamilton, a former congressional aide who served as state director for the Biden campaign in 2020, who took 17%.

The winner is likely headed to Congress from the heavily Democratic district. Johnson has endorsed Crockett as her successor.

In Austin, in the Democratic primary for the open District 35 seat, Austin City Councilman Greg Casar won the race without a runoff, making him the favorite to win in November in the heavily Democratic district.

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Texas kicks off 2022 midterms with primaries featuring battles for attorney general, U.S. House

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar trying to hang on amid FBI investigations

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TexasAUSTIN (CFP) — Voters in Texas kick off the 2022 midterm elections with the nation’s first party primary Tuesday, featuring a pitched battle among Republicans for attorney general, the last pro-life Democratic in the U.S. House trying to hang on to his South Texas seat, and two House Republicans facing primary challenges for not being sufficiently pro-Trump.

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Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar facing primary challenges

Voters will pick party nominees for statewide offices, including governor and lieutenant governor, as well as races for 38 U.S. House seats and the state legislature, which are being fought under newly drawn maps.

No U.S. Senate seat is up this year in the Lone Star State.

Polls for in-person voting open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., in both the Central and Mountain time zones.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott is expected to easily dispatch seven primary challengers, on his way to a November match-up with Democratic former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary.

Seven Republicans holding statewide executive offices are running for re-election, with two facing fierce primary challenges to keep their posts.

Attorney General Ken Paxton – who is being investigated by the FBI and sued by former staffers in his office while facing a criminal trial for securities fraud – is facing three primary challengers, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the third generation of his famous family involved in Texas politics; U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, who gave up his House seat to take a last-minute plunge into the race; and Eva Guzman, who left the state Supreme Court to run against Paxton.

Pre-election polls indicated that Paxton, who has been endorsed by Donald Trump, will likely face a runoff against Bush, setting up a MAGA-vs.-Establishment free-for-all in the May 24 contest.

Five Democrats are waiting in the wings for the Republican primary winner, with hopes of winning the party’s first statewide race in 28 years, particularly if Paxton prevails.

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is also facing a tight battle with two Republican challengers, amid ongoing battles with state legislators and the indictment of a campaign consultant on bribery charges related to hemp licenses overseen by his office.

State Rep. James White from Hillister, the only black Republican in the Texas House, has scooped up endorsements from 20 fellow lawmakers in his bid to unseat Miller. Also in the race is Carey Counsil, a rancher and real estate developer from Brenham.

In U.S. House District 28 in South Texas, moderate Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar from Laredo – the last pro-life Democrat left in the House – is facing Jessica Cisneros, a Laredo immigration lawyer who has the backing of key figures in the Democratic left, including Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and New York U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Cisneros came within 3,000 votes of unseating Cuellar in 2020. The district has since been redrawn, and Cuellar is also running under the shadow of a January FBI raid on his home and office, related to an investigation of donations connected to Azerbaijan. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Republicans in the Texas legislature made the majority-Hispanic district more Republican, and it will be a top GOP target in the fall. Joe Biden would have carried it by just four points.

In U.S. House District 3 in suburban Dallas, U.S. Rep. Van Taylor is facing four Republican challengers who are hitting him for voting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and supporting a congressional investigation into the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol.

In U.S. House District 2 in suburban Houston, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who has been seen as a rising Republican star since his election in 2018, is also facing three primary challengers after criticizing Trump for his actions on January 6th and opposing efforts to thwart Biden’s victory.

Two other open U.S. House seats have triggered primary battles, one in each party, for seats where the primary will likely decide the November winner.

In heavily Republican District 8 in suburban Houston, where U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady is retiring, the primary race has turned into a proxy battle between the Republican establishment and hard-right MAGA luminaries in the House Freedom Caucus.

Morgan Luttrell, a Navy veteran and former adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy, is running with the backing of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, former governor Rick Perry, and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of Trump’s most vocal critics.

Luttrell served with Kinzinger in the military and has said he considers him a friend and “not a traitor to his country.” But pressed by his opponents over their relationship, Luttrell said he returned a campaign donation from Kinzinger and doesn’t “agree with anything Adam says politically anymore.”

On the other side, conservative political consultant and podcaster Christian Collins is backed by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.

In District 30 in Dallas, where veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is retiring, nine Democrats are competing for the nomination to represent the majority-minority district. Johnson endorsed State Rep. Jasmine Crockett as her successor.

In District 15, a seat that Democratic U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez gave up to seek re-election in a neighboring district, six Democrats and eight Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination.

The newly configured district, which stretches from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley, is expected to be a battleground between the two parties in the fall. Biden would have carried it by less than two points in 2020.

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Decision 2020: Democrats’ Lone Star hopes dashed as they come up bone dry in Texas

Dreams of turning Texas purple subsumed in a red wave in Tuesday’s vote

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — Heading into Tuesday’s election, Texas Democrats were hopeful that 2020 would finally be the year that the Lone Star State would turn purple.

They had targeted 10 U.S. House seats and had hopes of flipping a U.S. Senate seat and grabbing control of the state House — and perhaps even winning the state’s presidential electoral votes for the first time since 1976.

Exactly none of that happened.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, re-elected

President Donald Trump carried Texas by 6 points; U.S. Senator John Cornyn won by 10 points over Democrat MJ Hegar; none of the targeted U.S. House incumbents lost; and the balance of power in the Texas House will be about where it was before the election began.

The only bright spot for Democrats was that they kept the two U.S. House seats they flipped in 2018, as Collin Allred won re-election in Dallas, and Lizzie Fletcher won in Houston.

Perhaps nothing symbolized Democrats’ night of woe as much as what happened in the 23rd U.S. House District, which stretches across a vast expanse of West Texas from San Antonio toward El Paso.

This district is always hard fought, changing hands four times in the last 20 years. Two years ago, Republican Will Hurd won it by a mere 926 votes over Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones.

After Hurd retired, Ortiz Jones ran again and was expected to pick up the seat. But she lost to Republican Tony Gonzales by 9,300 votes, a worse showing than two years ago.

Democrats had also expected to pick up the Dallas-area seat that had been held by Kenny Marchant, but former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne appears to have won a narrow victory over Democrat Candace Valenzuela, although the race has yet to be called.

Valenzuela had attracted national attention after winning the Democratic primary, picking up endorsements from Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Kamala Harris.

Republican House incumbents who survived included Mike McCaul in central Texas (+7), Van Taylor in the northern Dallas suburbs (+12), Chip Roy in the Austin suburbs (+7), Dan Crenshaw in Houston (+14), Ron Wright in suburban Dallas (+9), Roger Williams in metro Austin (+14) and John Carter in the northern Austin suburbs (+9).

Roy’s victory was particularly sweet for Republicans, as he defeated former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who gained a national following in 2013 after filibustering to kill a bill restricting legal abortion, which she parlayed into an unsuccessful run for governor in 2014.

Davis moved from Fort Worth to Austin to run against Roy and raised nearly $9 million. But in the end, it was not enough to overcome Texas’s Republican tendencies.

Which was the story of the night for Texas Democrats.

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17 Southern U.S. House Republicans vote with Democrats to remove Confederate statues from Capitol

11 other Southern Republicans missed vote on measure that passed House Wednesday

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Seventeen Southern Republicans in the U.S. House joined with all of the region’s Democrats to support a resolution calling for removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol, along with a statue of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, who wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision.

Eleven other Southern Republicans did not vote on the measure when it came to the floor Wednesday.

Among those supporting the measure were 15 Southern Republicans who represent former Confederate states, including:

Also voting for the measure was Brett Guthrie from Kentucky and Carol Miller of West Virginia, who represent Southern states that stayed in the Union during the Civil War.

Among the Republicans members who did not cast a vote were Ralph Abraham of Louisiana; Bradley Bryne and Martha Roby of Alabama; George Holding and Richard Hudson of North Carolina; Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Barry Loudermilk of Georgia; Francis Rooney of Florida; Denver Riggleman of Virginia; William Timmons of South Carolina; and Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma.

Hurd, Olson, Walker, Abraham, Byrne, Roby, Holding and Rooney are all retiring in November; Riggleman was defeated for re-election. The rest are all seeking re-election.

The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 305 to 113, instructs the Capitol architect to remove statues of “individuals who voluntarily served Confederate States of America” and to replace the statute of Taney with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court.

All of the votes against the measure were cast by Republicans, who opposed the resolution by a vote of 113 to 72.

Taney authored the Dred Scott decision in 1857, which declared African Americans were not citizens even if they had been freed from slavery.

The House bill now goes to the Senate, where it is unclear if the Republican leadership will bring it to the floor. President Donald Trump has also not taken a position on the measure, although he had come out against renaming Southern military bases that were named for Confederates.

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