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U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, has decided to end his reelection campaign after he was forced into a primary runoff amid 11th-hour allegations of infidelity.
Taylor made the stunning announcement Wednesday, hours after he finished his five-way primary with 49% of the vote, just missing the cutoff for winning the primary outright. The runner-up was former Collin County Judge Keith Self, who is now likely to become the next congressman for the 3rd District.
"About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world," Taylor wrote in an email to supporters. "I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was 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."
The day before the primary, the conservative outlet Breitbart News posted a story that Taylor had had a monthslong affair with a Plano woman, Tania Joya, who he had paid $5,000 to keep quiet. The publication reported that she provided it a phone screen shot purporting to be communications with Taylor and a bank record showing that she deposited $5,000 into her account. The Texas Tribune has not been able to independently verify the report.
Taylor is married with three children.
Joya is known as a former jihadist who was once married to a commander for the Islamic State. Tabloids have referred to her as “ISIS bride.”
Efforts to reach Joya were not immediately successful Wednesday.
Taylor has until March 16 to remove his name from the runoff ballot, which he plans to do, according to a spokesperson. After he does that, Self is automatically the Republican nominee for the district. There is a Democratic nominee for the seat, Sandeep Srivastava, but he faces long odds after the district was redrawn last year to favor Republicans.
Taylor, a former state senator, was first elected in 2018 to represent the 3rd Congressional District in the Dallas suburbs. His four primary challengers on Tuesday criticized his vote last year for a commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Self got 27% behind Taylor in the primary Tuesday. He was followed by Suzanne Harp at 21%, and the two remaining challengers were in the low single digits.
In his email to supporters, Taylor said he spoke with Self about his decision to end his campaign, "and I wish him the best as he seeks to become the next congressman for this district."
Self, who served three terms as county judge starting in 2007, ran against Taylor as someone who "lost his way" and "went Washington." He criticized Taylor for voting to certify the 2020 election results and vowed support for a "full forensic audit" of the election in Texas.
All the challengers focused on Taylor's 2021 vote for a proposed bipartisan, independent commission to probe the events of Jan. 6, when supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol. The commission never became law, but Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later formed a select committee on Jan. 6 whose work is ongoing. Taylor voted against that committee, but his foes blurred the distinction as they attacked Taylor as insufficiently supportive of Trump.
Trump never endorsed in the primary, while Taylor boasted a list of endorsements led by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and ran TV ads aligning himself with Trump's "America First" messaging.
It was all a political twist of fate for Taylor, who faced a competitive general election battle last year and stumped as "Mr. Bipartisan." But redistricting turned his district into a Republican stronghold, providing more fertile ground for primary opposition.
Before going to Congress, Taylor served in the Texas Legislature, building a reputation as staunch conservative. He was a member of the state House from 2010-2015 and the Texas Senate from 2015-2019.