A couple of years ago, Rep. Scott Taylor (R) easily won his first congressional campaign, dispatching Democrat Shaun Brown (D) by nearly 23 points in Virginia's 2nd congressional district. Given the size of his lopsided victory, Taylor looked like a congressman who'd be around for a while.
This year, however, the Virginia Republican is apparently so concerned about his re-election chances that he's been caught up in a clumsy scheme.
After the 2016 race, the prospect of a Taylor-Brown rematch quickly evaporated. Brown was indicted late last year by a federal grand jury, which charged her with fraud and theft of government property. She announced soon after that she was no longer a Democrat and would instead run for Congress as an independent.
And that's when things got a little tricky.
According to documents filed with the FEC and the Virginia Department of Elections, at least four paid workers on Republican Congressman Scott Taylor's campaign for reelection collected hundreds of signatures to put Shaun Brown on the ballot as an independent candidate in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District election. [...]The four workers collected these signatures in the last days before Virginia's primary election, which was also the deadline for Brown to submit the required signatures to state authorities. FEC documents show people with the same names and addresses were being paid by the Taylor campaign in this period. The payments were described as "payroll" or "campaign consulting – staff." There appears to have been a fifth worker, affiliated with Republican causes and the Taylor campaign, who aided the effort.
The scheme appears to have been first uncovered by WHRV, a public radio station in Norfolk.
Making matters worse, the Republican congressman's aides, who collected ballot signatures for the independent candidate, didn't do an especially good job: some of signatures were forged, and one included a prominent former official in the commonwealth who is dead.
In case that weren't quite enough, in Newport News' Daily Press reported that Taylor's spokesperson confirmed that the congressman "was aware" of the staffers' actions, though Taylor claims he didn't "order" his aides to do this.
The Virginian-Pilot's Roger Chesley added yesterday:
The more you stir the goulash U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor cooked up to get an independent candidate on the ballot in November, the worse it stinks. The stench will linger for a long time – maybe even past Election Day.Serves him right. The first-term Republican must be very worried about the candidacy of Democrat Elaine Luria, or else he wouldn't have stooped to this strategy.If he's doing this against a political novice, in a GOP-leaning district, you have to question his sense of fair play. Or his popularity among voters.
Virginia's 2nd is generally considered a "lean Republican" district this year. Perhaps it's time to reconsider that assessment.