Editor's note: Hours after this story was published, U.S. Rep. Van Taylor admitted to an affair and ended his reelection campaign.
U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano is headed to a runoff after facing a group of challengers attacking his vote for a commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
An unknown number of mail-in and provisional ballots still need to be counted.With almost all precincts reporting Tuesday night, Taylor had nearly 49% of the vote to 27% for former Collin County Judge Keith Self, according to unofficial results. One other challenger, Suzanne Harp, was in double digits, and two others were in low single digits.
Taylor’s race was one of several congressional primaries Tuesday night in Texas that put on display spirited debates inside each party. On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, was staring down a likely runoff against challenger Jessica Cisneros.
Taylor drew fire from fellow Republicans last year when he voted for the proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the U.S. Capitol riot. The commission never became law, but Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later formed a special committee whose work remains ongoing. Taylor repeatedly voted against that committee, but his opponents blurred the distinction as they attacked him as insufficiently supportive of former President Donald Trump, who has sought to downplay the deadly rampage of his supporters.
Taylor had a long list of endorsements in the primary topped by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Trump never got involved in the contest, despite appeals by Taylor’s foes for Trump to intervene.
Taylor, a former state senator, was first elected in 2018 to Texas’ 3rd Congressional District in the Dallas suburbs. He faced a competitive general-election battle last year, campaigning as “Mr. Bipartisan,” but redistricting made his seat more safe for the GOP — and more fertile ground for primary opposition.
Taylor was one of two Texas Republicans who voted for the Jan. 6 commission. The other, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio, was easily winning his three-way primary Tuesday night.
Taylor’s opponents also criticized him over another vote in which he was a GOP outlier in the Texas delegation. In July, he and four other Texas Republicans voted to remove all Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol.
Taylor had a massive fundraising advantage over his challengers throughout the primary. But outside money poured in at the end, as one super PAC, the Defeating Communism political action committee, spent over $400,000 on an anti-Taylor campaign, plastering the district with signs saying he “betrayed us.” An array of groups came to Taylor’s aid at the end, including the Congressional Leadership Fund, the top super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership.
In another congressional primary that showed schisms within the GOP, former Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell was nearing an outright win in the nominating contest to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands. Luttrell was getting 53% of the vote early Wednesday morning; the runner-up was political operative Christian Collins at 22%.
Luttrell had the support of former Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Houston and House GOP leadership. Collins, meanwhile, had the backing of Cruz, the political arm of the House Freedom Caucus and some of the most vocal pro-Trump representatives, like U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
Both Taylor and Luttrell are running in districts that are solidly Republican and unlikely to change party control in November.
After redistricting, the only competitive congressional race in November could be for the 15th District in South Texas. The incumbent is U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, but he chose to seek reelection in a safer neighboring district, leaving the 15th District open.
National Republicans’ pick for that seat, Monica De La Cruz, won her nine-way primary outright with 57% of the vote. She triumphed over a self-funder, Mauro Garza, with the help of late support from Trump and the Congressional Leadership Fund, the top super PAC aligned with House Republican leadership.
“Monica’s victory ensures this district will be a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans in the fall,” CLF’s president, Dan Conston, said in a statement, adding that he is “confident she will flip this seat red in November.”
The Democratic primary for the 15th District is headed to a runoff. Ruben Ramirez, a two-time former candidate for the seat who has Gonzalez’s endorsement, finished first with 28% of the vote in the six-way primary. But it was undetermined who would join him in the runoff, with businessperson John Villarreal Rigney and progressive Michelle Vallejo running close together in contention for the No. 2 spot.
“We owe it to every single Texan who showed up at the polls today to make sure that each voice is heard and every vote is counted,” Vallejo’s campaign manager, Kirby Chandler, said in a statement late Tuesday night.
In safer blue territory, progressives were celebrating the decisive outright win by Greg Casar, the former Austin City Council member. He got 62% in the four-way primary for the 35th Congressional District, an open seat after U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, decided to run for reelection in a new neighboring district.
In another primary that captivated national progressive attention, though, state Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Dallas was falling short of a first-round victory. Crockett was among the House Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C., over the summer in an attempt to block state GOP voting legislation. Early Wednesday morning, she had 48% of the vote against eight other Democrats vying to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas. Johnson had endorsed Crockett. The runner-up, with 18%, was Jane Hamilton, a former staffer for President Joe Biden’s campaign in Texas.
In more predictable outcomes, Gonzalez romped to victory in his new district, the 34th, where U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, is not seeking reelection. Gonzalez received 65% of the vote in the nine-way primary to succeed Vela, who had endorsed Gonzalez.
There was similarly little suspense in the primaries for Texas’ two new congressional seats. One is a solidly blue district, the 37th, based in Austin; the other is a Republican-friendly seat, the 38th, in the Houston area.
In the Democratic primary for the 37th District, Doggett breezed past three competitors with 80% of the vote. In the GOP primary for the 38th District, Wesley Hunt faced nine other Republicans and was earning 56% early Wednesday morning. Hunt is an Army veteran who unsuccessfully ran for Congress for another Houston-based seat in 2020.